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New Year’s resolutions: what will you do differently in 2024?

NGA's Co-Chief Executive Emma Balchin takes a look back at a busy 2023, how we supported you and what to look out for in 2024

Blog
03/01/2024

Welcome back to a new year and a new term. We hope you took some time to have a well-deserved break and are coming back to your governance role invigorated, resilient and ready to face new and existing challenges and celebrate our committed workforce and the children and young people we serve.

We are sure many of you will have breathed a sigh of relief at the news that Ofsted inspections will be paused until mid-January. NGA is committed to supporting the imperative for a more compassionate approach in 2024 and will make this part of our continuous dialogue with Ofsted. We stand ready to provide support, bring attention to, and share your perspectives to influence the development of a more empathetic and supportive inspection process, focusing on the well-being of all involved in inspections.
Should you wish to contribute additional examples and experiences concerning Ofsted, we invite you to communicate via email to nina.sharma@nga.org.uk.

We heard how our timely research on governance workload struck a chord with so many of you who are committed to governance but wondering how to fit everything in whilst managing life’s other commitments. We’re not proposing radical New Year’s resolutions, but if you’re taking stock, we hope this blog provides you with a few tips and topics to explore to get 2024 off to a solid start.

  • Work with your governance professional to plan for the year ahead – keep agendas focused on strategic priorities and avoid getting overwhelmed by compliance activity.
  • How long has it been since you and your executive leader took stock of board reports? Take the chance to review these and ensure your board reports provide the information you need to make decisions and provide effective challenge without being unnecessarily lengthy.
  • Reflect on relationships and roles, take steps to ensure board members trust each other's expertise and judgment, and delegate responsibilities effectively (making for faster, more efficient governance). Our effective teamwork guidance includes strategies for maintaining relationships and dealing with conflict.

Find more tips on how to govern efficiently in our Knowledge Centre, or book a place on our upcoming webinar to learn about balancing efficiency and effectiveness.

What governors and trustees were talking about in 2023

1.    Safeguarding

Unsurprisingly, keeping children safe remains at the top of governing board agendas. We’re really pleased our new safer recruitment e-learning module proved so popular with Learning Link subscribers last term; 100% of learners would recommend it – if you’re recruiting a new headteacher or CEO in 2024, recruitment panels can complete this module.

"Excellent module, easily navigated with good information at each stage."

2.    Exclusions

Over the last year, many reports of rising levels of permanent exclusions have created a challenging time for pupils, parents, teachers and leaders. In NGA’s 2023 Annual Governance Survey, 68% of respondents reported an increase in challenging behaviour, rising to 84% among secondary schools.

If you’ve served on an exclusion panel, you’ll know how demanding it is both emotionally and in terms of workload. Our upcoming leadership forum will explore the governing board’s role in reviewing decisions to exclude and discuss our proposal to remove this activity from governors and trustees altogether.

3.    Complaints

There is no doubt that there has been a significant post-pandemic rise in the number and complexity of complaints schools and trusts receive. Managing complaints has become a more substantial part of the day job for school leaders and as a result, governors and trustees are evermore called upon to form complaints panels.

Many concerns or complaints are an opportunity for improvement and a valuable potential source of learning – successful engagement with parents and carers is therefore vital.

If you’re reviewing your school/trust complaints procedure this term, refer to our checklist to help minimise time spent managing complaints and support the effective resolution. You can also watch our complaints management webinar, where the team share practical tips to overcome common challenges.

4.   Monitoring pupil premium spending

Many schools will have recently updated their pupil premium strategy (a new/updated strategy statement should be published by 31 December each year). If you’re taking time to scrutinise spending decisions this term, our new pupil premium monitoring tool will help you understand the role of research and evidence and how to evaluate the impact of the crucial source of funding and support.

In 2024, we are committed to addressing crucial topics and supporting you through any governance challenges. We’ll dive deeper into the issue of governance workload, starting with discussions we hope you’ll join us for at our upcoming leadership forums to explore further how governors and trustees manage their time.

We are also developing a monitoring and evaluation tool to help those of you who oversee provision for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND). These distinct resources for single schools or trustees monitoring across a multi-academy trust (MAT) will be available in time for our February SEND Network, so book your place to find out more here.

For most of you, ongoing financial challenges will continue to dominate board discussions. Our manifesto sets out our commitment to be your voice at a national level and calls on the government to ensure that all schools receive sufficient funding to sustain high-quality education. We hope our resources will help you to ask the right questions to ensure that money is well spent in your school or trust.

In the meantime, we hope you start 2024 with a degree of optimism that together, we can do our very best to ensure children and young people get the education they deserve by supporting each other to govern as effectively as possible. To coin an apt phrase from my own children’s latest singing obsession, Taylor Swift: “This is a new year. A new beginning. And things will change.”

Emma Balchin
Emma Balchin

Co-Chief Executive

Emma has over 25 years’ experience in education, leadership and school improvement and in leading professional development services. Emma has also governed and chaired across maintained schools, academy trusts and local academy committees.

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