Preparing to implement the General Data Protection Regulations

31 Dec

In Governors’ Agenda, Issue 67 – the summer term issue – we alerted you to the implications of the General Data Protection Regulations that were to come into effect on 25 May 2018.  If your governing board has not begun to address the issue, it is high time that members begin to act.

While it isn’t the function of governors to appoint a Data Protection Officer (DPO), as this is an operational matter, they should offer support and scrutiny on her/his appointment.  It is the role of the Headteacher to propose how best to appoint such a person and then take the necessary action to find a suitable person to discharge the functions of securing the data held at the school/academy.

Some schools/academies have decided to use consultancy rather than make DPO appointments.  If that is what your headteacher is proposing to do, governors should closely question her/him about the rationale and criteria for the choice.

Where the headteacher proposes to appoint an existing staff member to undertake the preparatory work, governors should ensure that this person is suitably qualified to do the job and has the time for it.

The governors should appoint one of their members to oversee the work being done in the area of data protection – for want of a better term, “a data protection champion”, who can, when formally visiting the school/academy in the course of the normal school day satisfy herself/himself that the work is being done well.

Data protection should be an item on the agenda of at least one governors’ meeting in the run-up to 25 May 2018.

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Government publishes careers strategy

31 Dec

I        The Four Themes of the Career Strategy

In the second week of November 2017, the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister, Anne Milton, set out four themes which will underpin the government’s careers strategy.  These are as follows.

(1)        “A high-quality careers programme in every school and college” based on the Gatsby Foundation’s benchmarks for good careers guidance.

(2)        “Encounters with providers and employers” especially focusing on the work of the Careers and Enterprise Company in the DfE’s 12 Opportunities Areas, i.e. Blackpool, Derby, Norwich, Oldham, Scarborough, West Somerset, Bradford, Doncaster, Fenland and East Cambridgeshire, Hastings, Ipswich and Stoke-on-Trent.

A key aim of an opportunity area will be to build young people’s knowledge and skills and provide them with the best advice and opportunities, including working with organisations such as the Careers and Enterprise Company, the Confederation of British Industries, the Federation of Small Businesses and the National Citizen Service.

The increased DfE opportunity area funding of £72 million will support local education providers and communities to address the biggest challenges in the 12 areas.  The opportunity areas will have priority access to other DfE support including the Teaching and Leadership Innovation Fund worth £75 million, focused on assisting teachers and school leaders in challenging areas to develop.

The Department for Education (DfE) aims to ensure that children (in the words of Secretary of State Justine Greening) “get the best start in the early years, to build teaching and leadership capacity in schools, to increase access to university, to strengthen technical pathways for young people and work with employers to improve young people’s access to the right advice and experiences.   The DfE will work with each opportunity area to respond to local priorities and needs – because each area will have its own challenges.”

(3)        Ms Milton acknowledged that the “careers profession has experienced many shocks in recent years” and that the government will look to support qualified advisers to deliver tailored guidance through the National Careers Service and other organisations.

(4)        The final theme is to improve the use of data. Ms Milton said that “more needs to be done to make destination data easier to interpret” and that the government will look to improve this.

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Valuing Values in Education

18 Aug

We live on three plains – the physical, intellectual and spiritual – ‘spiritual’ in a non-religious sense.

On the physical plain, we engage in a zero-sum game. What one person gains another loses and vice versa.  For instance, if you and I have a pound, we each have a pound and together we have two pounds.  If you give me your pound, I have two and you have nothing.  The reverse is true too.  If we exchange other the pounds with each other, we will still have a pound each and together we will have two.

The next level to which we can rise is the intellectual one.   If you have an idea and I have an idea, each of us has one idea and together we have two.   If I gave you my idea, you will have two but I will still have one.  I do not lose the idea that I have because I give it to you.   The same will apply to you.  If we gave our ideas to each other, each will have two ideas, but in total we will still have two.

We live on a spiritual plain too where values flourish.  Nolan set them out clearly and they are the seven principles of public life, i.e.

  1. Selflessness
  2. Integrity
  3. Objectivity
  4. Accountability
  5. Openness
  6. Honesty
  7. Leadership

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Keeping children safe: basis for happiness and success

18 Aug

Creating the right environment for learning facilitates learning.   If children are to succeed at school, they must have excellent teachers.  But that is not enough.   They must want to learn.  Establishing the right conditions for this desire means that they should be happy.   Keeping them safe is one of the prerequisites of happiness.

Consequently, the Department for Education (DfE) has taken pains to develop advice in Keeping Children Safe in Education, which is 76 pages long.   Ofsted, too, places enormous store on the arrangements the school/academy makes to safeguard young learners.   Should a school/academy fail to safeguard them sufficiently well, it is immediately put into special measures.

All adults working and volunteering at a school/academy – including governors and trustees – must now have Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) checks.  However, two groups of people associated with children are exempt from these checks.  These are children’s parents and carers and their peers studying at their schools/academies or neighbouring schools/academies.

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Chorus to support young people improve mental health swells

18 Aug

Localis, the think tank, published a report recently asking the government to make it compulsory for a mental health module to be included in initial teacher training (ITT). The report stated that mental health services for youngsters should be brought into schools/academies to prevent more than half-a-million pupils from being failed by the agencies.

Readers may recall that Prime Minister Theresa May announced recently that every secondary school in England would be provided with free mental health training.   Localis has now asked government to give school leaders more detail about what form this will take. It pointed out that in spite of the £1.4 billion recently committed to improving Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), more than 555,000 primary and secondary pupils who have mental illnesses will not receive NHS care and attention by 2020-21.

The Times Educational Supplement (TES) reported in the summer of 2017 that an increasing number of pupils had become suicidal in their attempts to secure help because CAMHS had raised the threshold for triggering that help.   A pupil of a school in South West London attempted suicide with an overdose. When her headteacher asked her how she was feeling when she was saved, she replied: “Pretty awful.” And then she revealed that she had attempted to kill herself to attract the attention of CAMHS.  In her school alone, three other pupils also attempted suicide for the same reason.

According to the TES, Heather Dickinson from Papyrus, the teen-suicide prevention charity, says that helpline advisers frequently hear from pupils who have expressed suicidal tendencies to see professionals from CAMHS.  “People either can’t access CAMHS or aren’t getting enough from them,” she told the TES.  “Sometimes young people feel that they’re not taken as seriously by CAMHS as they might be….So they escalate their behaviours.” Dickinson has seen a dramatic rise in calls and text messages the charity receives from teenagers with suicidal thoughts.

Growing numbers of pupils are being driven to make what look like suicide attempts just to get help, because the thresholds for accessing CAMHS’s services have increased. While CAMHS is planning school-based approaches to mental health, only 3% propose placing counsellors in schools.

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Clerking Governing Bodies Professionally

18 Aug

I        The Clerk Competency Framework and how it can be used

Not so long ago, the National Governors’ Association proposed that the clerk to the governing board should be renamed the “director of governance”.   This is unsurprising, as the responsibilities of the clerk have grown in proportion to those of the governors she/he serves.

In April 2017, the Department for Education (DfE) published a competency framework for clerking.  It provides non-statutory guidance on what it takes to make clerks effective in maintained schools, academies and multi-academy trusts.

How can the framework be used?

Governing boards can use the framework in several ways.

(i)         The first is to understand the role of professional clerking and how it can improve governance.

(ii)        They can treat the competencies as a template for a person specification when recruiting clerks.

(iii)       The framework may be used to set clerks their objectives and for performance appraisals.

(iv)       Finally, the document may be used to identify where improvements may be required in the service they receive from their clerk.

In turn, professional clerks can use the framework to assess their own practice and identify their training needs.

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Governors’ effectiveness: skills and knowledge not enough

18 Aug

The Department for Education (DfE) exhorts governing bodies to recruit governors in accordance with the skills.  This is best achieved if the governing board carries out a skills audit prior to the recruitment process to see what skills gaps exist.  The National Governors’ Association (NGA) has an excellent template for governors to engage in such a skills audit.  However, it is not possible to use the template unless the governors are members.

Tap into the Google search machine – Governors’ Skills Audit – and you will access 620 links.  Once the governing body knows what it wants, it begins the trawling process and, if savvy, seeks the help of the Schools Governors’ One-Stop Shop (SGOSS) and/or Inspiring Governors to help it get what it wants.  Both organisations carry out with great efficiency the task of finding governing bodies suitable persons – with legal expertise, financial nous, human resources know-how, curriculum proficiency and many other skills.

Over 300,000 school governors are required in England alone.   Our schools depend on their largesse to serve and contribute without the expectation of being remunerated or even given a stipend.   Several schools carry governor vacancies.  Inner city ones have several vacancies and are hard-pressed to find people willing to contribute their time and talent to their local schools.

At a time when the country’s economy is not exactly in good shape, many in society are scratching around for a living, providing for their families and making ends meet.   Altruism is in short supply and hard to come by.   The upshot is that a governing board is often keen to appoint anyone who breathes as a member.    However, it does so at its peril.

Skills are vital – more so than experience, albeit how many years someone has served as a governor could be advantageous.   The question is what is the quality of that experience.   Experience of engaging in bad practice is worse than having no experience of being a governor.  There is no fool like an old one.

So, what can be done to ensure that one’s governing board has members who are not just functional but also flourishing.  Having the right skills and experience are important but there are other requirements if governors are to be effective.

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