Saturday, 28 June 2008

FMSiS success

The assessors have granted us a FULL pass which is aparrently very rare. We have only two minor recommendations - one of which is ridiculous:

  • Financial regulations to be approved by the full governing body and not just the Business Cttee

Our BC had fully legitimate delegations to approve the Financial Regs and has done so; for the Inspectors to decide that they are a higher law than the School Governance Regulations is ridiculous.

We will do this, if onloy because it will be a 1 minute agenda item and then over and done with, but....

Congratulations to everyone involved - it was hard work and ultimately worth it - I am assured that it has thrown up one or two things that might not otherwise have surfaced.

Grrrrrr.....uninformed governors

Just got back from an excellent Governors Conference and need to dump my anger (yes, anger!) at how many governors don't know even the basics!!!!

A Chair who did not know the name of the school immediately opposite them on the same road, a chair who did not know what we call Special Schools round here, a chair who did not know what NPQH stood for, a chair who did not know what CRB stood for!!!! I coud go on and won't.

Why do we allow these people any influence over the future of our children?!

Monday, 16 June 2008

FMSiS again..The Inspector Calls

Arriving tomorrow - is it more stressful than Ofsted? Perhaps for the office staff.

Straightforward Business Committee approving a few missing bits of paper; what was really interesting was to see, for the first time. a benchmark comparison of finances for some similar schools. We have the biggest budget and the lowest per pupil cost! Good or bad - you guess because I certainly am not sure (yet!). Threw up some stuff well worth investigating as part of a cost/Best Value review.

Incidentally find that we seem to have been disadvantaged in prioritising Primary Capital Spend. We have three buildings and they have not been treated independently (imagine - we coudl have a dump and a palace, so on avergae we are OK!), nor has our special situation as a Special School been accounted for in looking at Value Added. I hate to say "I told you so" but when we were consulted I did suggest that we consider whether or not the, surface valid, criteria might disadvantage us. "I told you so!"

Friday, 13 June 2008

Time for disciplinary action?

In another forum, I read a post where the Head had unilaterally changed the uniform requirements. Clearly not in line with Guidance and in need of Governing Body consideration.

What really galled me was that yet again we have a Head acting alone and ultra vires.

Is it time to consider disciplinary action against a HT who is clearly acting other than in accord with well known and publicised guidance and who has taken upon themself a decision that did not follow due process and was not considered by GB.

I am getting more and more fed up with hearing about HTs who think they are 'god' (not ours, thank heavens!) - it is time we as governors reminded them of their and our place.

Business Manager vs Educational Professional in the top slot?

The question – “Does the most senior post in a school have to be occupied by someone with teaching qualifications or can the responsibilities of that role be more effectively be delivered by someone with a ‘management’ background?”

I do not intend to dissect the role and offer pros/cons but to suggest analogues which indicate that the need for a qualified teacher at the top of a school may be unnecessary.

IMHO an exploration of this question needs to start with an examination of the role of the most senior person in the school (for the sake of this item I will deliberately not use the word ‘headteacher’). That role varies depending on the type and size of school. Can it be that the capabilities needed of the leader of a small primary are the same as those for a large secondary? I suspect not.

What is likely to be needed in a small primary is someone who can, inter alia, occasionally teach and regularly offer ‘technical’ support to other teachers to help them improve their performance as teachers. Contrast this with the head honcho in a large secondary, which may have well over a hundred staff and a budget in excess of £10m where if they ever need to teach then something has gone seriously wrong with staff scheduling – their role is much more leadership and management than direct involvement at the chalkfront.

Think about this in the context firstly of the management of your LEA – does the Chief Executive of the LEA have to be a teacher? If not, at what point up the hierarchy does the requirement to have been a teacher stop? Now shift the focus of the question to industry – maybe the head of 10 person IT company needs to be pretty familiar with computers but does the CEO of Shell have to have drilled for oil or driven a petrol tanker or filled vehicles on a forecourt?

An interesting, and no doubt controversial, analogy might also be leadership in the Arts or Hospitals. In both of these sectors there has been a recognition that the ‘arts/health professionals’ do not necessarily have the capabilities, or maybe even the desire, to be effective managers of the whole enterprise. A very clear lesson from both of these sectors is the need for very close collaboration and shared Values/Ethos between artists/doctors and managers. A manager driving commercial success through ‘bums on seats’ may not gel well with an artist driving a grant-funded leading edge repertoire; in the same way, medical consultants need to acknowledge that there is limited funding and consider value for money just as hospital administrators need to handle the fact that they are in the business of saving lives not making money.

Speaking personally, I started my career as a pretty good synthetic and analytical chemist whilst ended it, having climbed very high up the greasy pole, negotiating with government and regulators about environmental quality standards. I did not shake a test tube for the last 25 years of my career, yet an appreciation of the technical/chemistry issues associated with improvements in environmental quality gave me a sounder foundation than if my background had been in teaching. The CEO of Shell needs to appreciate some of the issues around filling vehicles on forecourts but does not need an NVQ Level 4 in the topic to be able to operate effectively at his level.

I see to many managers in industry who have been promoted apparently on the basis of their technical competence and who do not seem to understand that management is itself a discipline that needs to be learned and studied. Engineers (for example) are happy to undertake CPD, indeed it is a requirement of their continued registration with the Engineering Council, why then do they think that they do not need to go and study management? You would not put an MBA to design a bridge any more than you should put a C.Eng. in charge of 100 people without substantial management training.

So my basic proposition is that whilst all head honchos need at least a modicum of leadership/management competence, the amount and balance between that and teaching qualifications/ability depends on the size and nature of the school. The move to new Headteachers being required to have the NPQH is a move in the right direction. A further move to recognise that the biggest schools would benefit from professional managers doing the management and professional teachers doing the teaching would be a further positive move. I would be very happy to appoint a professional manager to head large secondary provided that they formed a sound working partnership with the senior teacher and each of them were able to operate understanding the needs/constraints of the other.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What a list of topics to rear their head!

Almost at the bottom of the list for capital spend, LEA possibly misrepresenting an email sent (by me!) to them; continuing debate about the implications of the 'Equal Pay Settlement', the improvement advisor we were to have seconded to us has taken an other job and no longer available, discussion about who should hold the Register of Governors' Interests and whether or not it is a public document, FMSiS assessors due in next week, more work on the HR Strategy...all these, and more that don't come immediately to mind, have reared their head in the last 3 days!

Perhaps as Vice-Chair, and perhaps because I tend to be more active than others, I do seem to get involved in all sorts. I sometimes wonder where to draw the line, not in terms of strategy vs tactics (I have a pretty clear position on that) but on which issues I ought to get involved in. The challenge is (at least) threefold- one that I only have so much time, two that anything I do reduces the involvement/development opportunities for other governors and three that the more I get involved in the more I risk getting accused (again) of 'doing everything'.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

UK Governors your free resource

HOw sad that the first thing I did on my pooter today was to look up new posts on .

Great site.

If you are a governor and you are not a member - now's your chance.

Monday, 9 June 2008

FMSiS - tying the knots

Yet more paperwork to be formally agreed by the Business Committee just in case the assesors check on it. I wonder is this actually a valuable use of governors' time or just bureaucracy gone mad? It increasingly seems like a good idea (making sure that schools have proper financial controls and systems in place) has growed like Topsy and cgenerated an industry for the form fillers. AAAArrrrggggghhhhh!

Great strategy session

Isn't it amazing what can be achieved by a small number of committed and informed people?!

We had a great dialogue around the issues we need to address for the future - so great that we have arranged a further session to finish off the work.

HR advisor impressed with our inclusive approach - "I usually have difficulty persuading schools to do an HR Strategy and those that do agree just ask me to go away and write it". Well, that's not the way we work - this cross-functional team stuff seems to be taking off in one or two other areas as well.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

HR Strategy for school

I volunteered to facilitate development of an HR Strategy for our school (it's one of the things I do...) - working on a development session for tomorrow morning.

Already done the usual data gathering = STEEP, SWOT and filling the team in on stuff they were not up-to-date on.

Next step?

Thinking about how our strategy will be driven by Vision/Ethos, Short and Medium term goals, etc. Looks like we will have to do some work on the overall components as well - tentative list:
  • Change capability
  • Recruitment and retention
  • Team working - across sites as well as within sites
  • Training and development/CPD
  • Flexibility to meet pupil needs
  • Remuneration
  • Life balance (NB NOT Work/Life balance - work is part of life!)
  • Performance management
  • Diversity/Equal Opps
  • Communications
  • Leadership, management and delivery

What's good is that we have a multi-discipline team from across our several sites doing the work for SMT to consider - a real move forward and one that seems to be paying off in terms of broadening and deepening staff understanding of some of the issues involved in running the school.


Well, after searching all over I have failed to find any blog specifically devoted to school governance issues - so here it is.

I have been a governor at three school over the last 10 years; Chair at a mid-sized primary, Additional LEA governor at a school for pupils with Behavioural, Social and Emitional Difficulties in Special Measures and currently Vice-Chair at a Spcial School serving ages 3 - 19.

I am a Community Governor with no children at any of the schools I am involved in (actually I have no kids of my own, although I did 'inherit' three when me and my gorgeous partner hooked up - the story of being a step=father is another blog (but not one that I am going to write!).

There will be more about me on my profile but just thought you might like a feel for my involvement in school governance - I do it because I firmly believe that our kids deserve the best we can offer and that the future lies in their hands so we had better do right by them.