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In another busy year for school governance, we look back on some of the most prominent issues, our key achievements and just some of the ways in which we've supported our members during 2017. Plus, what we’re looking forward to in 2018:
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1. A subtle change to our name
A subtle but important change to our name during the year reflected the many roles that now make up school governing boards. At last year’s AGM, our members voted to change our name from the National Governors’ Association to the National Governance Association. The name change recognises that those governing in some types of school (academies) are trustees not governors. NGA also wanted to recognise the vital role of clerks and governance managers, many of whom are NGA members, regularly accessing the charity’s guidance, legal advice and training services. We officially adopted our new name on 31 March.
2. Getting the right people around the table
Getting the right people around the table is the subject of one of our key publications, of the same name, which we updated in 2017. This short guide covers the governing board lifecycle – evaluating, recruiting, appointing, inducting and succession planning. We also updated our skills audit to reflect updates in the DfE’s Competency Framework.
To offer a practical way for schools to discover the people they need, we’re working with the charity Education and Employers to provide a free recruitment service, Inspiring Governance.
Inspiring Governance helps schools to find and connect with local volunteers. To date, over 400 new governors and trustees have been appointed, and schools have been sharing their successes in a series of case studies.
Succession planning for the leadership of a governing board is also an important task. This year, we’re running a pilot of the Future Chairs Recruitment Service to match high calibre individuals who are willing to lead a board, with governing boards who have an upcoming vacancy. If your school is in one of our 12 pilot areas, and you think we could help, get in touch.
3. Celebrating outstanding governance
Twelve governing bodies and five clerks received awards in recognition of their significant voluntary contribution to education and their impact on the lives of so many young people at our biennial Outstanding Governance Awards. In a ceremony hosted at the Palace of Westminster, Lord Nash (former Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System) presented the winners’ awards across four categories – Outstanding clerk to a governing board, Outstanding governance in a single school, Outstanding governance in a multi academy trust or federation, and Outstanding vision and strategy.
4. Still fighting to fund the future
Funding remains the number one issue facing governors and trustees. Our Funding the Future campaign – where we’re calling for an increase in the overall size of the school budget – has continued amid a changing education funding landscape. We welcomed the reallocation of £1.3 billion in to core schools spending by the Secretary of State in July, and in September, a new national funding formula was announced. We support the principle of the national funding formula but ultimately we think it will mean pupils get a fairer share of not enough.
We’ve written to the Chancellor twice on this matter over the course of the year – in February, together with then NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby, we asked the Chancellor to “deliver the investment that schools so desperately need.” Ahead of the autumn budget, we asked the Chancellor to put an end to uncertainty surrounding school funding.
On the issue of 16 to 19 funding, we joined six associations representing schools, colleges and students to write again to the Chancellor calling for additional investment to arrest the continuing shortfall in sixth form funding.
As the Chancellor failed to listen to the voice of the majority of governors and trustees, we will continue our campaign in to 2018 and want to ask members, as they are setting next year’s budget, to share their funding challenges with us.
5. Hearing your voice and views
Getting the views of governors and trustees is vital to ensuring we represent your interests and needs. Each year we run two surveys. Our membership survey enables you to tell us what you think of our products and services; about the issues that are important to you and about how we are meeting your needs. This year, 1,882 members took the time to help us shape our services.
To fill a gap in national data, the NGA/ Tes annual survey on school governance paints a picture of the governance landscape. 5,338 people contributed to this year's survey which explores who governs, the issues that matter and views on the latest education policy. Findings this year include a change in the number of governors and trustees with the figure revised from 300,000 to 250,000; and a continued lack of age and ethnicity diversity on governing boards – both issues we’ll be focusing on next year.
6. Developing convenient training for you
Launched in April 2017, our eLearning for governors, trustees and clerks now has over 17,000 users. Accessing high-quality training is imperative to good governance and Learning Link combines this with convenience for governors and trustees to learn around their other commitments. This year the training team has created eight brand new in-depth introductory modules on topics such as Strategy and Resources – a challenge for experienced and new governors alike. In 2018, we’re working with partners to develop new modules on specialist topics.
7. Building strong networks
From special schools to MATs and clerks to young governors, we recognise everyone has different needs and experience. Our policy and information team create and facilitate forums where governors, trustees and clerks can come together.
Our Special Schools Advisory Group gives governors, trustees, members of management committees and head teachers an important opportunity to raise any concerns they have and share best practice. In 2018, we’ll be providing further opportunities for those governing in special schools to engage with us.
Following a successful first year, our Community MATs Network is now running for a second year. Community MATs – a term our members chose to define group of schools within close geographical proximity with a strong community ethos – have the opportunity to share best practice and lessons learnt, and we are pleased to be providing this support for an often-overlooked type of MAT.
Our Clerking Matters campaign seeks to raise the status of clerks whilst our Clerks Advisory Group acts as a forum for clerks and represents their views. In November 2017, we held two clerks meetings – one in Leeds and one in London – to discuss experiences and practice. We’re pleased to be holding our second Clerks’ Conference on 19 February 2018 (booking opens in the New Year).
And to bring together young governors (that’s those under 40!), membership of the Young Governors’ Network reached over 200 this year. Following a successful pilot, and very positive feedback from members, we’ll be looking at ways to grow the network further in 2018.
8. Great sources of reference and practical advice
Our three flagship publications were revised again this year to reflect the latest practice, guidance and regulation in governance. With thousands of copies now sold, Welcome to Governance (9th edition), Welcome to a Multi Academy Trust (2nd edition) and The Chair’s Handbook (6th edition) continue to provide an invaluable introduction for new governors and a handy reference for experienced governors alike. The next edition of Welcome to Governance is due out early in 2018.
Our guidance centre continues to respond to our member’s needs. A suite of guidance on schools assessment, added this year, provides extra support for governors and trustees in holding their executive leaders to account. By developing a suite of guidance on monitoring performance, including both primary and secondary assessment guidance, we’re helping those governing to understand the changing face of school data, curriculum and progress measures.
A hive of knowledge on procedural and legal matters, our GOLD advice team received a record number of enquiries this year. Covering a vast range of subjects from exclusions to parent governor elections, they’ve been on hand by phone and email to support governing boards in their day-to-day practice and on more complex matters.
9. Just out … supporting headteacher recruitment
We’ve just published our headteacher recruitment toolkit which complements new non-statutory guidance jointly produced by the DfE and NGA on recruiting a headteacher. The toolkit includes helpful checklists, templates and suggested questions to support governing boards in appointing the right person to the role. It covers the key issues governing boards need to consider, how to make sure your school stands out from the crowd and good practice on the nuts and bolts of the recruitment process to ensure that the candidate you appoint is the best fit for the role.
10. Our call to add a fourth core function
Ensuring the voices of stakeholders are heard and taken account of should be the fourth core function of school governance. We believe that the existing three core functions do not encapsulate stakeholder engagement, and so it should be formally adopted as the fourth core function to recognise that it is a fundamental component of governance and to take in to account that it happens. Particularly as MATs grow, and are governed in a fundamentally different way, there is a risk that trustees lose connections with local communities, parents, pupils and academy staff.
This new function would seek to stem the growing divide between those who have the power and are making the decisions about the use of public funding, and those in local communities who can feel powerless and ignored. In June, we wrote to the Secretary of State about this issue and Emma Knights also blogged about these fundamental changes to school governance. We’ll continue this conversation with the DfE in the new year and hope that it will be included in the next iteration of the DfE’s Governance Handbook.
Coming up in 2018…