Governor Support Team - governance support and improvement

There has been a great deal of development regarding how schools and their communities can be supported and challenged to develop successfully, in order to improve the outcomes for pupils.

Below are a number of links to a variety of resources to support, develop or self-evaluate your governing board: 

Governance Handbook

The DfE has produced the Governance Handbook which provides information about the role and legal duties of governing boards in maintained schools and academies (including free schools).

Competency Framework for Governance

The DfE has produced the Competency Framework for Governance which details the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for effective governance.

Clerking Competency Framework

The DfE has produced the Clerking Competency Framework which sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to provide professional clerking to school and academy governing boards.

Constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools: statutory guidance

Statutory guidance setting out the arrangements for the constitution of school governing boards.

The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013

Guidance to help school leaders and governing boards of maintained schools to understand their obligations and duties.

Department for Education

Contains a range of information and resources, eg teaching and learning; pupil support; leadership and governance.

Ofsted

Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills. They inspect and regulate services that care for children and young people, and services providing education and skills for learners of all ages. The Ofsted Inspection Framework sets out how the general principles and processes of inspection are applied to maintained schools and several other types of school in England.

Analyse School Performance

All board members should be aware of Analyse School Performance which provides schools and other existing user groups with detailed performance analysis. To access you will need to request a DfE Sign-in account from the DfE Sign-in approver at your organisation.

National Leaders of Governance

National Leaders of Governance (NLG) are experienced chairs of governing boards that have chosen to undertake training provided by the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).  NLGs can provide support to a chair of governors or governing board where this need has been identified by one of the partners eg Teaching School, LA or by the recommendation of an External Review of Governance following an Ofsted inspection.

A governing board can choose whoever they want to conduct an external review of governance. The DfE state that you should ensure that the reviewer has:

  • experience of what outstanding governance is;
  • a good understanding of governance, including different contexts and governance structures;
  • a clear understanding of Ofsted expectations;
  • successful experience of leading governors and school improvement;
  • excellent inter-personal skills.

If you would like to locate NLGs in your area, DfE have a School-to-School Support Directory which you can access to locate NLGs in your area.

Cumbria County Council

Specific information can be sourced for example; advice on HR issues, School Admissions, exclusions etc.

Learning Improvement Service

Information about the essential work of the Learning Improvement Service which is conducted in full partnership with the developing Cumbria Alliance of System Leaders (CASL).

Governor Support Team Training Programme

Find out what training is available and how to apply.

Cluster Working

Cluster working is a way of developing school led, self-improving systems.  Schools and governing boards are encouraged to work together to share their skills, knowledge and other resources which will contribute to improving the outcomes for children in schools in Cumbria.

Church of England Diocese
Catholic Diocese

Support for schools who are founded by and part of a church.

National Governance Association, (NGA)

The NGA is a membership organisation providing advice, support and representation for governors.

Clerking Matters

Part of the National Governance Association which provides information and resources for clerks and governors.

Inspiring Governance

Is an organisation funded by the Department for Education. They offer a facility where a governing board or an individual can register their vacancy or interest which is then held for a 'match making' process. You can contact them by email info@educationandemployers.org or call them on 0207 566 4880.

How can we improve our practice?

Governing boards want to do the very best they can for their schools, pupils and local communities. That is why their members give so freely of their time.  Below are listed some ideas, tools and materials to help governors reflect on their practice by considering the principles and approaches they use.  Each governing board is unique and different methods of improvement may work better for one governing board than another.

Governing Board Health Check

An effective governing board is involved in tracking school improvement, but also has a duty to review its own practices and operation. One way of doing this is to carry out a Health Check, involving the whole governing board. Once completed, the areas that the governing board wish to improve can form the basis of a Governing Board Improvement Plan, which can either be a stand-alone document, or be added to the School Improvement Plan.

It is recommended that a self-review of the governing board is carried out either annually or biannually and the plan updated at governing board meetings as outcomes are achieved. One example of a Health Check can be found here: Governing Board Health Check.

National Governance Association

The National Governance Association (NGA) is an independent charity representing and supporting governors, trustees and clerks in maintained schools and academies in England.

The NGA's goal is to improve the wellbeing of children and young people by increasing the effectiveness of governing boards and promoting high standards. It does this by providing information, advice, guidance, research and training. It also works closely with, and lobbies, UK government and educational bodies, and is the leading campaigning national membership organisation for school governors and trustees.

The NGA provides a number of resources which you may find useful:

Code of Conduct

The Code of Conduct sets out the purpose of the governing board, expectations of governors and describes the appropriate relations between individual governors, the whole governing board and the leadership team of the school.  

Details on becoming a member of the NGA are available on their website.

Governor Development

A good governing board takes responsibility for training its governors and most have a governor or clerk with the specific responsibility for ensuring every governor develops the skills they need to be effective.  Each individual governing board will differ, however the role of the person responsible for governor development may include:

  • helping the governing board to identify its training needs;
  • encouraging individual governors to attend training courses and report back to the governing board;
  • providing relevant information to the governing board about training matters;
  • becoming a link for training and development between the governing board, Local Authority and other partners;
  • inducting new governors and making them aware of training opportunities;
  • encouraging all governors to become involved in the work of the governing board and the school.

    Giving new and existing governors the opportunity to develop their skills will enable them to make an active and valuable contribution to the work of the governing board.  

      Governor Induction Pack

        It is important that new governors feel welcomed into the governing board and school community and have the necessary information and support to fulfil their role with confidence.

          The Governor Support Team have developed a model pack with some suggestions of necessary information that will be useful to new governors and also provides the facility for appointment/election details to be included.  Please feel free to amend/adapt the pack to your governing boards needs.

          What are policies?

          Schools have a wide range of policies and procedures which govern the safe and compliant operation of the school. The Department for Education provides guidance on the policies and documents that governing boards and proprietors of schools must have in the  Statutory policies for schools.

          For all categories of schools, other than statutory policies a governing board/school is free to put in place policies that they feel are necessary to aid the operation of the school.

          School complaints

          All schools are required by law to establish a complaints procedure and to publish that procedure on their website.

          Local Authority Model Complaints Procedure

          Local Authority Handling Complaints Guidance for Schools

          There are no significant legal implications embedded within it, except that they comply with the requirements above.  Schools are free to make any changes to suit the individual school's situation and the needs of the local community; or to write their own; or to adopt any other recommended model (by the Diocesan authority, for example).

          If, at any stage, a complaint is received alleging child abuse against a member of staff or school volunteer, the member of staff or governor receiving the complaint will contact the LA for advice immediately via the LA Safeguarding Hub or LA Designated Officer (LADO).  Your school should have adopted a separate procedure for dealing with such allegations, but in any case, the LADO will advise you to ensure that the procedures set out by the Cumbria Local Safeguarding Board are followed.

          Any other allegation of misconduct or misbehaviour by a member of staff should not be treated using the complaints procedure:  the governing board should have adopted a separate disciplinary procedure for dealing with such matters, the schools HR provider should also be able to offer support, advice and guidance through this procedure.

          The procedure should be reviewed and readopted annually, to ensure that all governors and staff are reminded of the procedure.

          Further information regarding complaints can be found on the DfE website, including a model complaints procedure and a model policy for managing serial and unreasonable complaints:

          Best practice advice for school complaints procedures

          Information for parents: Concerns and complaints involving a school

          For Local Authority maintained schools, complainants have a separate right to complain to the Secretary of State, once they have been through the schools complaints procedure.  However the Secretary of State is only able to intervene in particular circumstances - specifically where there has been a breach of a statutory duty or where the governing board has acted unreasonably with regard to the exercise of its power.  He/she must be satisfied that a decision is unreasonable in the sense that no reasonable governing board acting with due regard to its statutory responsibilities would have reached that decision.

          Complainants also have the right to contact Ofsted with concerns about the quality of education the school provides (though not usually concerns relating to an individual child), more information can be found at:  Complaints to Ofsted about schools.

          Complaints about Academies

          Academies are required to have a published procedure for dealing with complaints, which must be made available on request. This procedure must provide for complaints to be managed within clear timescales. The Cumbria model complaints procedure for schools does not satisfy the requirement for academies.

          If complainants are not satisfied with the outcome of their complaint they can complain to the Education Funding Agency (EFA).  A complaint will only be considered if it has already been through the academies complaint procedure.  Below is a link to some guidance on how to complain to the Education Funding Agency (EFA):  Procedures for dealing with complaints about academies.

          The Governor Support Team prefers to communicate electronically with governors and clerks. We find this to be the most effective method, and judging by your comments, this works best for you.

          The Governor Support Team keeps contact details for the chair and clerk of a governing board.  The team are grateful to clerks who routinely inform us of changes to contact details.

          The Governor Support Team are happy to use personal email addresses if this is requested of us, however there is a facility available to use two specific email addresses: chair@nameofschool, and clerk@nameofschool.

          Should you wish to utilise these addresses or you experience any difficulties and your school subscribes to Cumbria ISP please contact 01228 221225 or email ictservicedesk@cumbria.gov.uk marked FAO School ICT for further advice and guidance.

          Schools' Portal

          Information is also made available via the schools' portal covering a wide range of school business topics of interest to governors and clerks. A school has provision for 5 access logons to the schools' portal. This can be increased to 6, to accommodate a member of the school's governing board. Governors will have access to general (non confidential) information that is sent to schools.

          There are no restrictions as to which governor is granted access; it is advisable though, that this person is tasked to cascade information accessed from the portal to all governor colleagues.

          To request a logon, governors will need a school email address that ends in '.cumbria.sch.uk'. Accounts can be requested or removed at any time and take approximately 5 days to be setup. The account details will be forwarded to that person's school email address, the user can then log into the schools' portal from any computer linked to the internet - the user does not have to be in school to access the portal.

          Full instructions and support are available from the School Portal Team, who can be contacted on 01228 221229, 01228 221225 or via the email address: school.portal@cumbria.gov.uk.

          Please note: The CCC ICT Acceptable Use policy applies; login details are not to be shared with other governors/colleagues.