Latest Governance Snapshot

June 2017

Dear Governor, Trustee and Clerk,

Thank you for opening and perusing the latest Snapshot.

Recently I have been hearing more references to the Nolan Principles and was reminded that accountability and transparency remain the ‘corner stones’ of good governance.  Perhaps as we move towards the end of term we can find time to reflect on the past year of governance and consider how we have lived these principles in our schools. There are though sadly many examples across the country where it has all gone wrong.

This is likely to be the last Snapshot of the academic year so thank you for reading and thank you for your lovely comments – it is good to know that people find these updates useful. I thoroughly enjoy writing them!

I hope the celebrations in the last few weeks of term go successfully and good luck to everyone awaiting results…oh, right, that’ll be all of us then one way or another!

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

Headline Article

A statement from the NGA about this important document which I hope some of you have seen and used before:

The National Governance Association (NGA), the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and the Local Government Association (LGA) have collaborated to produce a new edition of this popular guidance document.

Effective working between those leading and those governing schools is vital to improving education for children and young people. This joint guidance aims to improve the effectiveness of governance by developing effective, mutually supportive and respectful working practices.

Among the expectations this document makes clear are that while governors must have the confidence to have courageous conversations, in turn, school leaders must be willing to be challenged. And while governors must be knowledgeable about the school, including its pupils, staff and community, in turn, school leaders must provide information to them in the appropriate way.

The paper has been broken down into four key areas: the respective roles of governance and management, developing and supporting the governing board, effective ways of working, and understanding the organisation and engaging with stakeholders.

The new edition has been updated to reflect the growing number of schools that are governed as part of multi-academy trusts as well as to emphasise the importance of diversity on the governing board.

If you are looking for governors or trustees do try –  this is still finding it’s feet but will offer support to new chairs as well and I hope to include more information on this soon. Support as I have mentioned before is available from NLGs –  there are just under 500 of us in the country. If you want more info drop me an email and I will happily signpost.

Data Protection and Digital Technology

Some useful websites on date protection which is a subject as a clerk I find many Boards are now discussing more frequently than ever. A question for you to think about over the summer in time for September is, if you haven’t already do you use an @school email for your governor correspondence and do you use an online cloud based system such a Trust Governor or Governor Hub? Other magazine listings available obviously!

Information Commissioners Office
And with the changes to Data Protection next year –

Guidance for Cloud Storage
These articles and links are a starting point for you to begin to have conversations if you are not already.

Sadly not unless it’s coffee! This serious subject is something governors need to think about too as they download info on their phones …
Have you checked (not written!) whether you have this covered in a policy?


This is interesting as it talks about Core Values – something which as a clerk I find Governors discussing more and more especially as this is our first core function and is critical in our MAT journey discussions.

The DfE have updated the requirements for what must be published online so whilst this is not strictly leadership it forms part of the Ofsted ‘pre-checks’ and can lead them to follow Key Lines of Inquiry if the info is not there – this includes governor and trustee business interests. As an NLG supporting schools and having met an HMI recently I know of what I speak!



Parents panel
Ofsted Parents Panel is a virtual panel that is made up of parents of school-aged children in England I am part of this panel – it’s nothing onerous. I am sent email questions and spend a very short while completing surveys. It is worth considering.

I have extracted the section on governors. The full findings of the survey are due to be published later this year.

Regarding level of contact parents have with governors

Seventy per cent of parents, who responded, said that they had very little or no contact with the governors at their child’s school. In some cases, parents said that they did not know who the governors were or what role/powers they have. Some parents weren’t sure if they needed to have contact with the school governors as they were happy with the way the school was being operated.

Parents who said that they had a lot of contact with governors indicated that they were often visible at school events and helping out in the classroom, being available at parents evenings, having an online presence and involvement with individual issues for example a complaint or issues around specialist provision.

Comments made include

‘At my Childs school they are treated as VIP’s but don’t seem to bother to have any dialogue with parents. I have been a parent at this school for nine years.’
‘They appear to be separate from the school. I am an active member of the PTA and have never been in any contact with them. We are aware who they are because their photos are up on the wall.’
‘They are very good at communicating when necessary but are understandably quiet the rest of the time.’
‘Governors are unsung heroes who take on a huge amount of work and responsibility for no obvious reward.’

Some food for thought?

Amanda Spielman – Ofsted’s Chief Inspector spoke at 2 day conference recently (sadly time and funds here at Snapshot House did not stretch to a ticket to the Festival of Education!) Her speech is worth a read.

Mocksteads and Mythbusters

The purpose of this document is to confirm facts about the requirements of Ofsted and to dispel myths that can result in unnecessary workloads in schools. It should be read alongside the School inspection handbook.

This document is intended to highlight specific practices that are not required by Ofsted. It is up to schools themselves to determine their practices and for leadership teams to justify these on their own merits rather than by reference to the inspection handbook.

Early Years


The Department for Education’s (DfE) review of efficiency in the school system in 2013 set out to discover what the best schools do to make the most of their money and how to apply what they do to the sector as a whole. The review recognised financial benchmarking as a key tool in the drive for greater efficiency in schools.

Benchmarking provides information to help schools consider how they use their resources. It aims to encourage school leaders to make informed financial decisions. It can also prompt school leaders to seek information and advice from similar schools.

The Education Endowment Foundation
This is a free to use website and I can highly recommend it. If you have not heard of it before the EEF is an independent grant-making charity dedicated to breaking the link between family income and educational achievement, ensuring that children and young people from all backgrounds can fulfil their potential and make the most of their talents. They fund rigorous evaluations of innovative projects aiming to raise pupils’ attainment. We do this to find out what’s most likely to work effectively and cost-effectively, and to put that into action across the country.

Founded by the education charity the Sutton Trust, as lead charity in partnership with Impetus Trust, the EEF received a founding grant of £125m from the Department for Education.

I was fortunate to hear Kevan Collins of the EEF speak at a Governor conference in London recently and he spoke passionately about the role of research, the challenges in the system, and the importance of finding out what works and what doesn’t. For example research showed that a programme called Accelerated Reader which as a clerk I know some schools use improved outcomes by 3months+ for all pupils and 5months+ for FSM eligible pupils. It is perfectly reasonable for governors to ask what impact in terms of outcomes such interventions have on outcomes without getting to the pedagogy. Perhaps though the most concerning statistic was that there is a 27% attainment gap at 16 between FSM and non FSM reaching expected level. 194,000 pupils left school last year with no English and Maths qualifications.

One of the reasons I enjoy drafting the Snapshot is that I find interesting information and lose time reading! This is a perfect example… – Pupils who received the growth mindset workshops made an average of two additional months’ progress in English and maths. These findings were not statistically significant, which means that we cannot be confident that they did not occur by chance. However, the finding for English was close to statistical significance, and this suggests evidence of promise.


Blogs and Articles

This is a selection of blogs which I think you may enjoy. There are 1000’s of blogs on the internet so obviously this is a very tiny selection. If you don’t agree with the content that’s fine!


NLGs- a blog from Modern Governor written by an NLG colleague in north Manchester region

Impact and (this is WordPress – some people have had a problem opening WordPress blogs)

Well being

Other Stuff! – this is a blog by someone I met recently at a WomenEd meetings and is called In Praise of Knowledge

NFER – MATs and Maintained schools

Free Childcare
Pass this link onto anyone who may be interested. Nurseries are vital.

A useful School Improvement update blog

Hot off the presses (don’t have presses as such in this digi-world!)
Press release on mental health training
Around one in 10 children are believed to have a diagnosable mental health disorder, with half of all mental health conditions begin before the age of 14, making it vital that children with early symptoms receive the support they need.

However, research by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) found that 98% of teachers had come into contact with pupils who were experiencing mental health issues, but only 46% reported receiving training on children’s mental health.

Equality in schools


GCSE Fact sheet


What questions are you asking about risk? Have you discussed risk recently?
It’s just financial or health and safety related. One useful definition of risk I read a few days ago is

A risk is
Anything that threatens a school’s ability to achieve its strategic priorities or improvement targets
carries a direct cost if it becomes an issue
can be controlled

A risk statement involves three elements
-a condition
-an uncertain outcome
-likely consequences if it is not managed

Think about your setting and the risks in the following areas – operational, people, regulatory, strategic and perhaps agenda something specific over the next few terms.

Stoke on Trent Early Help Strategy and LEP Education Trust

The city are currently working on a Stoke-on-Trent Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership Board Early Help Multi-Agency Strategy 2017 – 2020. I include a para from the introduction to the draft (June 2017) strategy and ask Governors and Trustees to ensure that they are aware of this important agenda and begin to ask questions if you aren’t already. Early Help will be a theme at our First Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire Governor Conference – watch this space.

Effective early intervention. Early Help is about tackling issues as they emerge, preventing them from escalating and providing families with the support and tools to succeed and achieve. The key message throughout is that we all want children and young people in Stoke-on-Trent to grow up to be happy, safe and healthy, inspired and enabled to succeed. We want children and young people to have the tools they need to enable them to make good life choices as they grow and reach their potential.

The context is, and this is relevant to our Boards, the LA and it’s partners will by working alongside a context of changing national policy focus priorities on

  • Reduce the impact of child poverty
  • Make a positive difference for children and young people through parenting
  • Provide early help and support for the children and families who need it most
  • Improve emotional wellbeing and mental health
  • Prepare young people for adulthood
  • Improve skills and employability – this last point resonates as I was fortunate to clerk a Board recently where Governors discussed the LEP

If you have a moment check out this website particularly which is the Education Trust. As Governors we need to think about impact and generate some questions around transition to further education. I guess this is about building that jigsaw of questions which form effective governance in our City.


If your clerk is also a governor make sure they fill this in as well!

Just a quick plea – make sure all your Board read the new Clerking Competency Framework – it does not just help and apply to us clerks!

Safeguarding and Well being
Checking the SCR is a ‘quick win ‘for safeguarding governors

Free Safeguarding Course
Andrew Hall, Safeguarding Consultant, has recently developed a free online safeguarding course for governors which has been circulated to governors in Stoke by Governor Services. You can sign up for this course even if you aren’t a safeguarding governor. I am going to do this over the summer…

The SchoolBus have published a useful guide which is available to subscribers on undertaking effective pupil well being surveys. If your school or academy subscribes do have a look – the document refers to this which is free to download.

This has just been published too…

SEND and Governance – this is an important document and I urge all governors not just the SEND Governor to read it.

The code, which applies to England, is for:

  • headteachers and principals
  • governing bodies
  • school and college staff
  • special educational needs (SEN) coordinators
  • early education providers
  • local authorities
  • health and social services staff

nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) is a charity organisation who have been operating since 1992. They have recently published a guide for governors which is free to download.

At the NGA conference I attended those of us who attended a session on SEN were given a list of questions to ask – I have tried to find these on the nasen website but they are ‘paid for’ content – to key questions and a good starting point for all governors are; 1.Is the Board confident that when carrying out their duties in relation to pupil with SEN decisions take account of the code of practice?
2.Does your school or trust provide access to a broad and balanced curriculum (and what does this look like for a pupil with SEN – case study perhaps?)

The themes of the questions are •role of the board

  • having regard to the Code
  • duties under the Equality Act 2010
  • duties under admissions code
  • role of the SENCO
  • publication requirements – these are different for maintained and academies so be careful!

The final part of the session at the conference was on ethos, culture and SEND – and we were asked ‘ how can you evidence how the board’s ethos supports pupils with SEND?’ More food for thought.

Social Media

This is a plea to be careful out there ! You can get into all sorts of trouble in 140 characters.
I wrote this blog after reading a thread on twitter that got a bit out of hand…

Seriously though I was recommended this site at yet another Saturday conference I attended recently and again other providers of information available!

National Social Media Day is a good opportunity for schools to teach pupils, and the rest of the school community, about the risks associated with social media

And finally though they may never read this – thank you to my long suffering family – in order to write these snapshots I have to spend a long time on the t’interweb. And no, I’m not shopping!

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