Conference: research, exclusions and high quality governance

I am just back from the Haringey Governors Conference and I thought I would briefly reflect on the sessions I went to and what I learnt.

As well as the keynote on using well-researched interventions I attended workshops on exclusions and the Governor Mark.

Using evidence to make informed decisions and maximise the impact of spending

Keynote: Kevan Collins – Education Endowment Foundation

Kevan’s core point was to impress upon governors the need to use robust evidence when deciding on which educational strategies to pursue in their schools. He of course pointed us to his organisation’s Teaching and Learning Toolkit, which is a brilliantly accessible summary of a huge amount of research into different educational practices (it’s online and free, so you should definitely be referring to it).

School Exclusions

Workshop 1: Deborah Tucker, Inclusion Manager, Haringey

Deborah went through the legislation around exclusions and some strategies for promoting inclusion. The key information governors need to be aware of is here: http://education.gov.uk/aboutdfe/statutory/g00210521/statutory-guidance-regs-2012

The process has changed recently and it is now very difficult (if not impossible) for parents and pupils to challenge an exclusion and for the school to have to take the wrongly excluded pupil back.

Changes to the legislation also mean that the school’s behaviour policy is central to defining what constitutes a lawful exclusion, so make sure yours is clear and reasonable.

Other points for governors to note:

  • Children made to go home for lunchtimes count as half-day exclusions and parents need to be informed in the same way.
  • Schools need to have up to date model letters that contain all the statutory information. Haringey can supply these.
  • Directing a child to alternative provision is not an exclusion as such.
  • Useful, relevant work should be made available for any pupils who are on fixed-term exclusions.

Governor Mark

Workshop 2: Phil Hand, Newport Educational

Governor Mark is a quality standard for school governance. There are freely available tools you can use for self-evaluation here: http://www.glmpartnership.org/governor_mark.html

(They also sell an external evaluation service to allow you get the Governor Mark accreditation.)

What it is really aiming for is to help you see whether your governing body is having an impact, rather than turning up to meetings and signing off policies. Although we just had a little look at the scheme it did seem that it had value and I will be looking at it in more detail and will probably share it with our governing body at Welbourne.

Other governors raised the point that one important element that it didn’t seem to look at was how well governors respond to crises and ‘fire fighting’.

A couple of tips Phil gave that I thought were useful:

  • When your school commissions an external review (e.g. by a School Improvement Partner) make sure that the governing body gets an unedited copy, not just a report from the headteacher.
  • Anyone can ask useful questions about RAISEOnline data if you just remember ‘green boxes are good, blue boxes are bad’.

One other thing that he pointed out was that in academy chains local governing bodies actually do not have any real power or responsibility, they are merely consultative bodies. The directors of the academy chain (i.e. those in the central office) are legally the ones responsible. This seems to me to be yet another way that academies, by accident or design, undermine local accountability and influence.

Attendance

Overall I thought the conference was very useful, but I was really dismayed (although not surprised) at the how poorly attended it was. Of about 1,300 governors in Haringey, there were no more than 100 governors there. Looking down the delegate list it looks as though only half the schools in the borough were represented at all. Without attending this kind of useful training I don’t know how we can be effective in challenging schools and improving the lives of the children of Haringey. What ideas do you have for increasing attendance at these events?

3 thoughts on “Conference: research, exclusions and high quality governance”

  1. I went too and found the conference very helpful. I’d be interested to know whether other gov bodies have report backs of any training written/oral as regular items on the agenda . I’m a gov at Northumberland Park
    Liz Singleton

    1. We do have oral report backs but often very little is said beyond, ‘I went to X training and it was interesting’.
      I encouraged the other governor from Welbourne who was there to write up 4 or 5 bullet points from each of the sessions she went to to share with the rest of the governing body. This blog post is my attempt to do the same. I think writing the notes straight after is most useful because when it comes to the GB meeting a month or two later it’s difficult to remember what was most salient.
      On occasion, straight after training, I have also emailed the Chair of Governors, the head and the other governors about issues that I think we need to address quickly or that I want to ensure I don’t forget. Immediately emailing the Chair and the Clerk to ask for something specific to be put on the agenda of the next meeting is also a good way of making sure your training is put to good use.

What do you think?