A new inspection regime means volunteer school governors must brace themselves for a greater share of the responsibility for improving educational standards, a conference was told.

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About 100 members of the Norfolk Governors’ Network arrived at County Hall in Norwich on Saturday for their annual general meeting, and to discuss recent changes in the way school inspections are structured.

They were told that a new Ofsted framework introduced in September included an expectation that all schools must achieve a rating of “good” or better, and an increased focus on the “effectiveness of governance”.

Terry Cook, head of educational achievement, improvement, leadership and governance at Norfolk County Council – himself a lead Ofsted inspector – told delegates what was required under the new regime.

He said inspectors would want to know the extent to which governors hold their head-teachers to account for improving the quality of teaching and pupils’ achievement, and how they monitor performance management systems, create value-for-money and make most effective use of Pupil Premium payments.

The governors attending said they were prepared for the challenges ahead, but raised questions as to how the extra burdens would affect volunteers balancing school duties with full-time jobs.

Mr Cook said: “Governance has assumed a higher profile. The key point is how governors are creating the optimum opportunities for pupils. In other words, what difference are the governors making to the effectiveness of the school?

“The difference between schools with ‘serious weaknesses’ and those in ‘special measures’ is their capacity to address those shortcomings – and one of the key measures of whether a school has the capacity to improve is the effectiveness of its governance.”

Retired civil engineer John Sansby is a governor at Suffield Park Infants School in Cromer.

He said: “I think maybe it is the pace of the change that causes problems.

“We work quite hard as governors and we could actually do it full time and still not have enough hours in the week, and that is an issue. Frankly, anyone with a full-time job will struggle to do anything other than come to meetings.

“We have to constantly work so hard to keep on top of everything, but let me say this: It is one of the most rewarding things you could ever do. It is challenging and hard work, but I would encourage anyone to get involved.”

Tim Rowe, a governor of Spixworth Infants School, said: “Obviously things have to change and evolve to make sure we are getting the best outcome for the schools. That is why we are here. But I think the changes need to be fair, without putting on so much pressure that it becomes burdensome on the head-teachers.

“No-one can be left in any doubt as to the importance of the governing board, and there is a lot of food for thought. The bottom line is that if the school governors are seen as not performing, then they will be called to account. I don’t think any governor should take their role lightly.”

Stephen Adamson, chairman of the Norfolk Governors’ Network, said: “It has been a time of enormous change and there is no sign of it slowing down. But I don’t think we should be frightened of all that change.

“I am sure we all feel change is happening too fast and new things are coming in before the old ones have had the chance to be embedded, but I believe governors are in a position of great strength to achieve what they want to achieve, and to be entrusted with ensuring our schools are of a high standard. The down-side of that is that we will get looked at much more closely by Ofsted to make sure we are doing our job. But then, if you become a governor then you must expect to take on those responsibilities.

“I think if people really want to become governors it is because they really want to have an effect on children’s education, so they will rise to the challenge.”

6 comments

  • N. Try telling that to the parent governers of schools in Gt Yarmouth, Gorleston, Bradwell etc. They are only in it for their own self gratifiction, self importance and to get their kids a better education.

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    "V"

    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • It is clear from the other 2 comments there is a complete lack of understanding as to the role of school governors in today's education system. Governors provide challenge, support and strategic direction to school. We have no involvement in the day to day management if the school. I am a parent governor at my son's primary school and I do it because I want to support the school to be the best it can be, NOT to derive some personal benefit for my. As a parent governor I am a representative parent, NOT a parent representative - there is a clear distinction and it is important that parents understand that when they take on the role. I do think that in years gone by, some governors may have done it in order to gain some sort of personal kudos, but believe me,in order to be an effective governor who provides challenge and support, you simply cannot just turn up at the occasional meeting and swan around basking in some kind of aura. If someone becomes a governor because they have an axe to grind (and I have seen parents who do it for that very reason) or want something else to put on their CV, then they soon come down to earth with a bump once they realise what they are required to do. My governing body is made up of a wide range of staff, parents and people from the wider community who are very committed in helping the school keep improving and providing the best education it can. I also know that our Headteacher appreciates the extra perspective which governors bring. We are unpaid (and I wouldn't have it any other way), and the role is extremely challenging to undertake and manage, bearing in mind most of us have a day job - I regularly attend governor training, meetings, conferences to ensure that I can fulfil my role properly. You really wouldn't do it unless you were genuinely committed and I take great exception to the assertions suggesting otherwise in the other comments. Also, not every parent stops being a governor when their child leaves a school - some move on to the next school which is perfectly understandable, and others do stay on in their child's former school by becoming community governors. I do think that people need to be better informed about what being a governor is about before they take on the role and also think that governing bodies should have more input as to who can join them so that those who are clearly not joining for the right reasons (eg. having a personal axe to grind) can be vetoed.

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    Row71

    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • About time. Too many parents become governers, just to get one better for their kids, ply favourtism with the so called teachers, get one up on the other parents and when their kid leaves they do not want to know.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • It is clear from the other 2 comments there is a complete lack of understanding as to the role of school governors in today's education system. Governors provide challenge, support and strategic direction to school. We have no involvement in the day to day management of the school. I am a parent governor at my son's primary school and I do it because I want to support the school to be the best it can be, NOT to derive some personal benefit for my son.As a parent governor I am a representative parent, NOT a parent representative - there is a clear distinction and it is important that parents understand that when they take on the role. I do think that in years gone by, some governors may have done it in order to gain some sort of personal kudos, but believe me,in order to be an effective governor who provides challenge and support, you simply cannot just turn up at the occasional meeting and swan around basking in some kind of aura. If someone becomes a governor because they have an axe to grind (and I have seen parents who do it for that very reason) or want something else to put on their CV, then they soon come down to earth with a bump once they realise what they are required to do. My governing body is made up of a wide range of staff, parents and people from the wider community who are very committed in helping the school keep improving and providing the best education it can. I also know that our Headteacher appreciates the extra perspective which governors bring. We are unpaid (and I wouldn't have it any other way), and the role is extremely challenging to undertake and manage, bearing in mind most of us have a day job - I regularly attend governor training, meetings, conferences to ensure that I can fulfil my role properly. You really wouldn't do it unless you were genuinely committed and I take great exception to the assertions suggesting otherwise in the other comments. Also, not every parent stops being a governor when their child leaves a school - some move on to the next school which is perfectly understandable, and others do stay on in their child's former school by becoming community governors. I do think that people need to be better informed about what being a governor is about before they take on the role and also think that governing bodies should have more input as to who can join them so that those who are clearly not joining for the right reasons (eg. having a personal axe to grind) can be vetoed.

    Report this comment

    Row71

    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • Why don't governors bother to find out what type of spending ends up in the 'other' column in a schools budget report? Do they ever demand or see a breakdown of expenses? No....thought not.

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    Rhombus

    Monday, November 12, 2012

  • I despise the system of school governors. I went to primary school where the governors included ill educated members of families with local business interests and the others were the local " gentry" and rector. From the way that school was run none had much of a care for the education of the pupils. Too many governors are half wit local councillors or worthies who have a finger in every pie or parents who were red hot interested when their kids were at school but lose interest once they have left or they are people with axes to grind or business to pick up.Some are governors of state schools but have always sent their own children to expensive private schools. Few were people I was happy to see having a say in how my children's schools were run. Governors are a relic of the days of patronage-schools should be in the hands of LEA experts and teaching staff with the Ofsted inspectorate providing access to immediate dispute resolution for parents. Governors are meant to help accountability but can be too involved in the community to be impartial or for parents to feel they are impartial. I realise some governors have the best of intentions but state schools should need less not more input from unqualified people. Let them stick to fundraising and volunteering help with DoE etc.

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    Daisy Roots

    Monday, November 12, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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