It's here at last – The Select Committee's Report on School Governance

As we all know – well anyone interested in governance enough to read my blog in any case – the Education Select Committee has been considering the thorny issue of how to improve school governance. We’ve had a bit of a wait (even longer than we expected as the first link published was broken), but the report‘s finally here. OK, I’ve got to be honest. I haven’t actually read all 53 pages yet. But here are my initial thoughts on the summary and the recommendations. And yes, I will read it all, and many more opinionated posts will follow no doubt (I can sense you all holding your collective breath), but in the meantime, here’s my starter for ten, which picks through the recommendations and highlights my favourites.

Hurrah – “Despite the DfE’s clear preference for smaller governing bodies, there is no evidence base to prove that smaller governing bodies are more effective than larger ones”. Well we knew that, but still…

I like the recommendation that the Government should review the incentives for, and requirements on, businesses that release their staff for governor duties. I’d like it to go much further than this though and stipulate that employees be given time off with pay for certain defined governor duties (I know it’s difficult – but is for those of us that are volunteering too!).

The recommendation that governors could get paid but only for ‘deploying their skills to improve governance in other schools’ is unexpected, as there’s nothing to my knowledge preventing this at the moment, other than a mechanism to facilitate it, money in the system to make the payments with and a culture which says it’s acceptable. Governors can’t be paid for governing their schools. If they’re supporting another GB then that’s like training isn’t it? You can be paid for that. I’d better stop there in case it sounds as though I’m making a case for paying NLGs (*declares interest*).

You’ll know from my written evidence that I advocate mandatory training (what? you haven’t read it and memorised every word?) but I never expected that would come out as a recommendation, and I’m actually quite pleased with what has emerged on training. If current measures aren’t effective “mandatory training should be considered again”, and a recommendation that “the Government should require schools to offer training to every new governor” (‘schools AND academies’ I trust that means – I’ll have to check the detail a bit more closely).

I welcome the recognition of the importance of the role of the clerk, and the idea that SGOSS should be involved in clerk recruitment is certainly an interesting one. Hmmm.

But my favourite recommendation has to be this:

“The new [Governors’] Handbook has lost much of what was valuable to experienced governors and clerks in the predecessor guide. The Government should work with the NGA to rectify this”. I love it. I really do. It won’t happen.

As for the recommendation that appointment processes and terms of office for chairs should be reviewed and powers given to remove poorly performing chairs and poorly performing governors, well, we already have some powers around this but they tend not to be used. WHY do we keep re-electing ineffective chairs, and re-appointing community governors who aren’t contributing? Perhaps because we don’t want to offend the volunteers who’re giving up their free time to these roles, even if they aren’t doing a good job? New powers here won’t change anything unless we have a change of culture and attitude towards that issue. As Emma Knights said at last week’s #governorlive ‘it will be down to us, on the ground, whether policy changes have any impact’.

Much food for thought. Nothing ground breaking, but some useful recommendations, should the Government choose to take them on board. Time will tell…

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