Archive | January, 2015

Making Missions Statements Meaningful

3 Jan

The principal, overarching function of a school governing body is to set a strategy for the school to develop and grow.  Governors do this in myriad ways, many of them right and some less so.   Occasionally, governors decide to go on an away-day once annually or biennially to review how they (and the school) have been doing and set the objectives and strategy for the future.   Others decide to do this with less frequency – i.e. once every three or four years.

A few governing bodies leave the construction of the strategy to their headteachers – who, in conjunction with their staff members – especially the members of the senior management teams – review the school’s strengths and weaknesses, audit the opportunities and threats in their environments and pull together the objectives and the School Development Plans (SDPs) for the following year, two years or three.  These SDPs are then presented to their governing bodies for comment.  Given the constraints of time at meetings, more often than not, they are rubber-stamped and approved with little or no comment.

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Governance Regulations to be updated and rationalised

3 Jan

The Department for Education (DfE) issued draft governance regulations published in late December 2014.   Stakeholders are invited to respond to the Advisory Group on Governance (AGOG) at AGOG.Communications@education.gsi.gov.uk on the consultation document  by no later than 19 February 2015.  The aim is to rationale and tidy up the many changes that were brought about by recent legislative initiatives and are mainly of a technical nature.

For instance, the proposed regulations will, when enacted, ensure that rules about shadow governing bodies and the transition from Interim Executive Board (IEBs) to full-blown governing bodies are brought into line with the 2012 Constitution Regulations.

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Self-Review: Is it the panacea to good governance?

3 Jan

I           Why have self-reviews?

Governors are exhorted to be effective.  To assess how well they are doing, they, naturally engage in self-reviews, because self-reviews, which like motherhood and apple pie, are “good things”.  But are self-reviews what they are trumped up to be and do they pave the way to good governance?   This article explores the issue and while encouraging governors to engage in it, sounds three health warnings.

Governance literature is awash with tools to help school governors carry out self-reviews. The reasoning for doing this work goes like this.

The powers and responsibilities of governors have grown exponentially – proportionate to the diminution of the powers and responsibilities of local authorities.  Membership now, based on government diktat, must be drawn from people who have the necessary skills to make governing bodies effective.  Previously, members represented various stakeholders – i.e. parents, the local authorities, staff, faith bodies and, of course, the community.   There has been a sea-change since from stakeholders to a make-up of skilled and knowledgeable people.   This is despite the continuing requirement for every governing body of a school that is not a free school or academy to have one staff representative and at least two parents on the governing body.

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Teachers’ Performance Reviews – One Year On

3 Jan

I        Background and Context

The link between the performance management of headteachers and deputy headteachers in England and the salaries they receive has been in existence since 2000.   However, it was only in September 2013 that all teachers became the subjects of annual performance reviews linked to pay.  Performance reviews go by the name of appraisals in the business world. For the purpose of this article, I will stay with “performance reviews”.

Autumn 2014 saw the end of the first cycle.  During the term, governors formally reviewed how the system worked or didn’t.    The researchers are busily beavering away to assess the success of teachers’ performance linked with pay.  However, it would be apposite to make a few observations based on first-hand experiences and anecdotal evidence, and signal health warnings to improve the process for teachers, school managers and, most important, the children.

In the autumn of 2013, teachers were made aware of the fact that, for the first time, they would not receive increases if they simply performed satisfactorily – or, to use the Ofsted terminology – required improvement.   Previously, a salary increase was withheld only if a teacher was the subject of the capability procedure.

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Primary Schools doing better than the Secondaries, says HMCI Wilshaw

3 Jan

Sir Michael Wilshaw, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools (HMCI), published his third annual report on 10 December 2014.  The report was based on information derived from the inspections of over 7,000 schools, colleges and providers for further education and skills during the academic year 2013/14.   His key findings were as follows.

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Preparing for the Ofsted Visits: Random Thoughts

3 Jan

The words, “Ofsted will be visiting” tend to strike fear in the hearts of professionals – especially headteachers – to the point of transfixion.  Accordingly, well before any impending visit, it would be good for school leaders (including governors) and teachers to develop mind-sets that take such visits in their strides.   The headteacher is the key person who establishes the tone for creating these mindsets. But to do so, she/he must first engage in a type of thinking and action planning that is simple and practical.   Here are a few random thoughts (thanks to Geoff Barton, a secondary headteacher) for the headteacher to get the grey cells functioning.

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Quo Vadis Ofsted?

3 Jan

Ask teachers, headteachers and governors what their views of good education are and they will tell you more often than not that it is to educate the whole child to grow, develop and take her/his place as an adult in the world to make it better place.  But the school preparation for such a condition can be something completely different, driven by two aspects of our education system that is now dominating the provision we make for our youngsters.  These are

  1. preparing for the next Ofsted inspection and
  2. ensuring that the pupils achieve excellent results in the Standard Assessment Tests/GCSE/A Levels so that the school is as high up as possible in the league tables.

Both, the model of inspections and the manner in which we assess our children’s progress and achievements, are in a constant state of flux.   Elsewhere, I have written about the abandonment of levels in primary assessment and the changes in the secondary examination system. For the purposes of this article, I wish to focus on Ofsted’s inspection model that never fails to bewilder and petrify so many of our teachers, headteachers and governors.

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