Governance

The difference good governance can make to a school!

By Martin Matthews, Lord of Monivea, National Leader of Governance Twitter

When you first walk into a school if there are happy children in clean, warm and well-resourced classrooms chances are governance is good.

Governance is one of those aspects of school organisation where is obvious if its poor and almost invisible when its working well.

I firmly believe that there are three principal strands of any school organisation that underpin success; fantastic educators and leaders, great governance and amazing admin.

Governance starts by setting the ethos of how the adults treat each other. The tone of meetings and how governors interact with senior leaders sets the expectation. This in turn affects how senior leaders work with each other and the rest of the staff. Governors should follow the Nolan principles and see the same from school leaders. This matters as it directly impacts on teacher retention. Treating people fairly starts with the board.

Teachers are the ‘engine room’ of the school organisation and everything else is there to support them to be their best. The happier and more secure teachers feel the more they can concentrate on educating children. In turn this positively affects how and what children learn. Governors are part of how this is achieved.

Most teachers have little need to understand or work with governance. When it comes to pay decisions, they start to take more notice. This is one example of what governors contribute to the organisation. Teachers go above and beyond what most employees do and paying them fairly is crucial to building and maintaining trust within the wider organisation. Governors in maintained schools decide both what percent pay rise all teachers receive and who gets an increment. This is their legal responsibility and it must be done fairly. The pay process is there to protect both school and individuals. Governors guard against “We can’t give a pay award because of the budget”, unfair career inappropriate targets, unfair targets in general and some of the stranger things that pop up like “We can only have one UPS teacher”.

Governance is one of those aspects of school organisation where is obvious if its poor and almost invisible when its working well.

Governors and trustees have two main strands to their work; support and challenge. Challenge should never be aggressive or accusative. Its purpose should always link back to what’s best for the children. Having said that, there should be an intolerance of things that fail the children. Support has many forms from protecting school against the ‘noises off’ that plague education to the Chair working well with the head teacher. For example when the DfE made the decision to adopt an academisation policy, we worked on a Plan B for our school. We involved all the staff and made clear this was a ‘just in case’ to protect our school from enforced changes. This gave reassurance to the staff so they could settle and concentrate on teaching.

When staff understand that governors and trustees are there to champion the children in school and champion school to the outside world what’s done makes more sense. We are volunteers but not amateur and use the skills and experience we bring to make school the best it can be. Anything less is not acceptable. What motivates me as a governor is the sense that every child deserves an equal and fair chance to access the very best education we can provide. All children are ‘worth’ the same; who knows what they will become as adults?

We’d love to hear from other governors: what motivates you and what are the highs and lows of the role?

About Martin Matthews
Martin is a National Leader of Governance (cohort 1). Cumulatively he has been a governor for over 50 years. He has given written evidence to the House of Commons Education select committee four times and has the only MA Ed in governance.  You can connect with Martin on Twitter @mm684

Members of #TeamADL work with and train many SEN Governors.  In fact, some of our team are governors themselves!  Anita Devi has also written a SENCO and governor relationship toolkit.  To find out more visit www.AnitaDevi.com

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