Greater prominence for governance, adequate funding to tackle the biggest education challenges, and stability and support for all schools regardless of structure are amongst calls being made by the National Governance Association (NGA) in its manifesto published today (1 November).
NGA aims to improve the educational standards and wellbeing of young people by increasing the effectiveness of governing boards and promoting high standards in state schools. Representing the views of over 62,000 school governors, trustees and clerks in England, and founded in NGA’s extensive expertise, the manifesto sets out twelve key policy priorities that politicians should consider as they campaign for the general election on 12 December. Education will be an important battleground, and NGA is expressing the views and experience of its members to secure positive change for those governing schools in the interests of pupils.
Issues emerging from the School Governance in 2019 survey are at the forefront at the manifesto. The biggest concerns facing school governors and trustees across the country are funding; staff recruitment, workload and wellbeing; and supporting pupils with special educational needs. The manifesto calls for a new government to urgently address the continued insufficiency in school funding including investment in SEND and increased funding for other public services which support disadvantaged pupils and their families, to ease the expectation on schools to fill the gaps.
Good governance is essential to ensure that children reach their full potential and public funds are spent wisely. Recognising this through giving governance a greater prominence in central and local decision making is a key argument of the manifesto. NGA reaffirms its longstanding call for the government to introduce mandatory induction training for governors and trustees, a view which is opposed by just 3% of the school governance community. Requests to recognise effective clerking as an essential part of governance, introduce stakeholder engagement as a fourth core function, and to assist initiatives to improve the diversity of governing boards are also included.
Schools have had to react to various periods of transformation over the past decade, with major changes to how they are measured, judged and held to account. NGA are calling for a ‘policy relief period’ which will allow schools to review the impact of current initiatives and focus on improvement. In addition, NGA urges policymakers to recognise and respect that many schools have chosen to remain local authority maintained, and calls for schools to receive equal levels of support regardless of their structure.
Sam Henson, director of policy and information at the National Governance Association said: “We have listened to our members who are volunteering on the frontline, making difficult decisions about the future of their schools and ensuring that pupils receive the best possible education, to produce this manifesto. The voice of those governing offers a unique and knowledgeable view of society. NGA will raise these twelve issues with the new government and education bodies to raise the profile of governance and create change at a national level. I encourage school governors and trustees to play their part in making this happen by sharing our manifesto in the context of their own experiences with local candidates too.”