Latest Governance Snapshot

February 2017

Dear Governor, Trustee and Clerk,

Welcome to the latest governance snapshot. I hope that you find the articles and publications interesting, thought provoking and worth sharing with your colleagues. As usual there has been much published since the last snapshot so this snapshot can only be a ‘snapshot’!

Snapshot written by: Fiona Stagg, National Leader of Governance (North Staffordshire)

Headline document

It was difficult to know what to chose as this month’s headline document so I thought I would hyperlink to a blog by Sean Harford of Ofsted about safeguarding. He says Ofsted Inspectors do not:

  • Have an Ofsted template or safeguarding checklist that schools are expected to comply with
  • Promote particular products or safeguarding methods. The way each school approaches safeguarding will be determined by the school, according to local circumstances

But they will undertake rigorous questioning of governors understanding of safeguarding. Read more here.

Contents

  1. Questions about Governance
  2. Ofsted’s Corporate Governance Framework
  3. Ofsted
  4. Safeguarding
  5. Data Protection
  6. Multi Academy Trusts
  7. Leadership
  8. Pupil Premium

Please click on the links above to jump to a certain section of the snapshot, or scroll to read all snapshots.

Questions for this term

Sir David Carter recently wrote an article in the TES magazine about governance and said ‘as we move into the second half of the academic year, there are four questions that boards need to test themselves on:

  1. Are we delivering on our strategic goals and are they raising standards?
  2. Do we know that our improvement priorities are the right ones?
  3. What does the current performance of our school(s) suggest that we need to focus on for the next 12 months?
  4. What challenges do we need to anticipate over the next five years?

To support better governance, the Department for Education has recently published an updated version of the Governance Handbook.

It has been restructured around a new helpful summary of the six features of effective governance.

He also asked:

  1. What does the current performance of our school(s) tell us about the areas that needs to be better?
  2. How will we know that the educational leaders are working on the right things?
  3. What are the future challenges that we can anticipate that will test us over the next five years?
  4. How secure is our current governance model? Do we comply in both spirit and the law?

Is it worth bearing these questions in mind as we move into the second half of the academic year?

Sir David Carter is the national schools commissioner.

Ofsted’s corporate governance framework

Ofsted is a non-ministerial government department responsible for the inspection and regulation of services for children and learners.

The specific duties of Ofsted include:

  • The registration and inspection of childcare and early education
  • The registration and inspection of arrangements for the care and support of children and young people
  • The inspection of all maintained and some independent schools
  • The inspection and assessment of children’s services provision in local authority areas, including inspections of safeguarding and looked after children
  • The inspection of further education
  • The inspection of all publicly funded adult education and training and some privately funded training provision
  • The inspection of teacher training
  • The inspection of the Children and Family Courts Advisory and Support Service
  • Determining the welfare of any child in boarding schools and colleges

This report tells us how Ofsted are governed which makes interesting reading.

Ofsted

Since September 2015, Ofsted has contracted directly with new Ofsted Inspectors and it is good to know that:

  • Seven in ten Inspectors are current practitioners
  • Ofsted has improved the quality and consistency of inspection

Ofsted Inspectors and Her Majesty’s Inspectors are working together in Ofsted’s regions, training together and inspecting together.

In addition to this Ofsted’s Governance Lead considers the key challenges facing governors to be:

  • Knowing how to hold leaders to account
  • Understanding governors’ strategic role
  • Knowing how governors and teachers should work together
  • Making time to manage the workload in a voluntary capacity
  • Keeping up to date with the changes in education, legal responsibilities and the inspection framework
  • Ensuring boards have the right skills and knowledge
  • Recruiting governors with the required skills
  • Accessing good advice and support

To this I would like to add having the skills, knowledge and understanding to ‘manage’ the financial pressures we are all facing. The Schools Cuts website recently published information on the potential depth of cuts facing schools across the country. Whilst there may be issues around this information it is worth being aware that the National Audit Office published a report in December 2016 called Financial Sustainability of Schools. Some key facts to provide some context for your ongoing discussions about school funding 8.0% real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding for mainstream schools between 2014-15 and 2019-20 due to cost pressures 95.7% of maintained schools’ income came from government grants in 2014-15.

Challenges to schools’ financial sustainability

The Department’s overall schools budget is protected in real terms but does not provide for funding per pupil to increase in line with inflation. In the 2015 Spending Review, the government increased the schools budget by 7.7% from £39.6 billion in 2015-16 to £42.6 billion in 2019-20. This is a real-terms increase that protects the overall budget from forecast inflation. The Department estimates that the number of pupils will rise over the same period: a 3.9% (174,000) increase in primary school pupils and a 10.3% (284,000) increase in secondary school pupils. Therefore, funding per pupil will, on average, rise only from £5,447 in 2015-16 to £5,519 in 2019-20, a real-terms reduction once inflation is taken into account.

The full report can be read here and on the BBC here.

Other headlines about funding include:

Safeguarding

Paragraph 157 of the Governance Handbook says it is helpful if all governors have training about safeguarding “to make sure they have the knowledge and information needed to perform their functions and understand their responsibilities.

Governing boards must also ensure there is a child protection policy and staff code of conduct in place. It is worth checking these regularly to remind ourselves what they say. Schools should also have procedures covering recruitment and selection, the handling of allegations against staff and other pupils, and responses to children going missing from education. It is also worth doubling checking that all governors, Directors and Trustees have a DBS

If you haven’t got a policy on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp etc etc) for governors and you don’t think it is covered in the school policy this articles from 2011 is a useful starting point for your discussions. https://www.ncogs.org.uk/documents/public/ncogs_digitalparticipationrevised.pdf.

Twitter

A colleague asked me recently about school Twitter feeds and whether school have a disclaimer on their Twitter narrative about not being responsible for content of follower accounts. Apparently Ofsted are looking at Twitter feeds as part of their pre-visit work so it is worth governors asking the question under the e-safety hat.

Other articles

Thanks to @StokeLearning for this link to info on CSE here.

Data Protection

Read more about information security (Principle 7) here.

If you can track down a copy of the TES from 27th January p35 gives a very useful summary on how to prepare schools for the new data regulation called the General Data Protection Regulation which comes into force in May next year. Whilst this does not explicitly affect governors we need to have an increased awareness. I am not an expert in data protection by any means but have given this matter some thought and looked for advice for governors online. I have found little but would be interested to hear from anyone who may be able help support governors knowledge in this area.  Schools hold a huge amount of personal data and breaches are usually accidental but in future they could be even more costly. Is it explicitly referred to in any Risk Management Plan for example?

An extract from the TES article

Do not misjudge what is classed as personal data and how much you actually hold. Say you have a member of staff with a complaint and they exercise their rights to see the data you hold on them. This would include any data held in email conversations and attachments. Don’t forget meeting minutes; these contain personal data, too. What if this leads to the need to delete an entry under their right to “rectify” or “erasure”? This change has to apply to all copies of the data, including copies held in backups. This means your policies must also cover backups, as you need to be aware if any recovered data is incorrect or should be erased.

‘Get a clear picture of all the types of personal data that you hold and where it is stored’

Does your school have any looked-after children? Or pupils flagged as being vulnerable, such as young carers, and those at risk, who also have restrictions on which of their contacts can receive certain information?

Schools Week recently published an article about schools that breached date protection rules and walked away without punishment.

Multi Academy Trusts

I hope that the articles I have included are thought provoking – I have tried to include a balance of information on this important topic.

Some Trusts are working exceptionally well and others hit the national news.

This Schools Week article states that MAT performance at KS2 is slightly better than at secondary level but more than half of established multi-academy trusts fell “significantly below” the average for pupil progress, with a host of the country’s largest trusts among the worst performers at secondary level.

Leadership

This term’s Entrust Governor Information Pack for those schools who subscribe has a timely reminder at appendix 2 about being ‘Ofsted ready’ and offers a checklist to help us think about this and poses a series of questions. I won’t repeat them here but the main focus is around how do we get our information and where do we get it from.

It also reminds us that for the maintained sector we need to be ensuring we are ‘SFVS ready’.

I hope this is the latest version!

Leadership blogs

Governor Training

I have deliberately put this under leadership…Para 141 of the Ofsted Inspection Handbook states  the effectiveness of governors in discharging their core statutory functions and how committed they are to their own development as governors in order to improve their performance’.

Some questions to ask yourself about training (and development/CPD) could be

  • Do I have a plan or do I just attend training because it is available?
  • Does the training link to my role in school eg SEND link or Pupil Premium Link?
  • Do I measure the impact of this training on my practice and/or knowledge? And how do I evaluate my learning?
  • How do I share training with the other governors/Trustees?
  • How are records kept of Governor training?
  • Does the Clerk undertake CPD and how do we know?

Free (yes free!) governor training.

Modern Governor, who also have a free app for apple and android smartphones, is holding a series of webinars which they advertised recently. Having ‘attended’ a few of these from the comfort of my spare room I can highly recommend them. See details here.

Edge Hill Leadership Academy have the NCTL licence for the Free Governor Workshops and these have been advertised in Stoke on Trent and are being held at the BTSA and in Staffordshire there have been tweeted out by Staffs Governor Association. There are a number of facilitators locally and attending is a great way to share and network.

The National Governors Association (www.nga.org.uk) also have a number of free downloadable resources.

Pupil Premium

The Governance Handbook reminds is that the purpose of the pupil premium is to narrow attainment gaps between those children and their peers.

Boards should ensure that pupil premium funding is being spent on improving attainment for eligible pupils.

“Pupil Premium funding has become an increasingly important area for many schools, especially given the fact that Ofsted inspections are duty-bound to include a report on how well the school is using any of this funding” (Modern Governor). At some PP training recently a Governor suggested having Pupil Premium as a specific agenda item on the FGB or LGB agenda – perhaps this is worth considering?

Contact us on 01782 235 523 or email us at office@sbmat.org

If you have a question or need more information we’ll be happy to help

© The St. Bart’s Multi-Academy Trust 2017

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