I’m steaming

I’m steaming since I read the announcement that the government were intent on conducting a major review of school governing bodies. There is so much wrong with this that it’s beyond a joke.

Firstly, the review is concerned with governing bodies and not tasked with looking at good governance. There is a real difference, and its pretty obvious that Ed Balls and Jim Knight have not appreciated that. Looking at the body and not the processes will not produce the best result. It doesn’t matter how many people are on a GB, nor does it matter who they represent. What matters is what they do.

The constitution of the review body is a joke, considering that the constitution of governing bodies is at stake. There are only two governors listed in the membership, Judith Bennett of the NGA and a Trust School chair of governors Mike Billington. Given that there are less than 100 Trust Schools across the country, and that they are a fairly controversial construct, his appointment is hardly representative of the wider governance community. Some might say that he is likely to take the DCSF line, but I don’t know him well enough to say one way or the other.

The other 17 include union leaders, local authority employers, a number of former governors and even Ofsted. It is not exactly representative of governors.

But the press notice also includes a little gem that has been peddled by various vested interests over the last few months. It says

Smaller governing bodies tend to be more effective and highly skilled.

So you would think that there must be some real evidence for this contention. Well if there is, it is not widely available. So I’ve asked the department to produce it. Lets see what happens. But they seem to have made up their minds already. It continues …

We believe smaller governing bodies can be consistent with the stakeholder model and so we will make governing bodies more effective, beginning by consulting on reducing the size of governing bodies.

So they are minded to do it anyway. Lets make sure they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater though. Surely they won’t insist that ALL GBs must reduce in size. I am aware of a number of largish GBs of schools that Ofsted consider to be Outstanding. Surely no one is silly enough to insist that such GBs reduce their size to a more politically acceptable level?

I think we should know.

3 Responses

  1. Would this review take any account of young people’s participation on governing boards and whether boards should be mandated to have a representative from their school councils?

    Or would the reduction in board size be likely to pretty much rule out the possibility of young people being a statutory part of their own schools governing bodies do you reckon?

  2. Tim
    Certainly in previous changes to GB structures the govt have included a requirement to consult . When Trust Schools were introduced it became a statutory requirement to have a Parent Council if the Trust reduced the number of elected Parent Governors. There is already a heavy emphasis on consulting the Student Voice. But that is different from having student governors.
    I guess the answer to your question is that it might!

  3. I’m learning that school boards are not really places for detailed or robust conversation. I think there has been a long standing (and rather obvious) culture of pedagogues becoming heads – and that reflects how they seek to “guide” their governors.

    I do admire the professionalism of many of the teachers I meet, so suspect that this is a complex problem to solve. However my starting point is to remove any pretense of hierarchy when it comes to boards of governors and cultivate a culture of honest open, mature conversation.

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