The roles, responsibilities and realities of governance 

Do our current governance systems and structures highlight and challenge underperforming subjects, age groups, phases, pupil groups, or departments? (GV748)

Two recent experiences have inspired our topic and question of the month. Last week, another governor and I were asked to meet with an inspector during the SIAMS inspection of our Church of England academy. Simultaneously, I began reading the review document published by the NGA in June titled “Growing Good Governance.” Both experiences underscore the crucial role that governors and trustees play in creating and maintaining the essential elements that enable schools and trusts to thrive. The questions and discussions with the inspector highlighted the breadth and depth of our role, particularly during challenging times.

This month’s question emphasises a key aspect where governance processes should both challenge and support the overall leadership of a school or trust to build and maintain high-quality provision for children and young people. This is one of many roles, several of which often carry legal responsibilities. The NGA report allows us to reflect on the wide and important responsibilities of governors and trustees. SIAMS and CSED inspections, by their very nature, involve clarity when reviewing governance roles in strategy, ethos, evaluation, mission, values, and behaviour alongside many other areas of school leadership. Ofsted schedules have evolved and currently incorporate governance within leadership, particularly since 2013, when the separate paragraph “The governance of the school” was removed (see Paragraph 123 – Page 44, School Inspection Handbook September 2012).

This paragraph shares much with the common themes for improvement identified in the NGA Review:

  1. Establishing a vision and a long-term strategy
  2. Clear roles and good use of professional support
  3. Holding leadership to account
  4. Financial oversight
  5. (Developing) effective governance structures
  6. Relationships between tiers of governance in MATs
  7. Stakeholder engagement
  8. Self-evaluation

A quote from Ian Phillips’ recent book, “How to be a great GOAT: A guide to being a brilliant Governor or a Trustee,” is most relevant here for both our question and topic this month:

“It’s one of the unique features of our state schools that crucial educational decisions are delegated to volunteers. Over a quarter of a million of us are expected to resolve high-pressure, even existential, issues. These can range from financial meltdown, determining strategic direction (including foundation status), adjudicating a permanent exclusion, or determining a complaint against a headteacher. In no other part of the public realm are such burdens placed upon those who altruistically support vital hubs for their local communities. Education loves an acronym, so I refer to my colleagues in this important role as GoaTs (Governors or/and Trustees).”

Ian’s new book and the NGA review are timely reminders of the roles, responsibilities, and realities of being a governor or trustee in 2024. They explain, support, and encompass the high levels of skills, knowledge, and understanding needed, alongside how the expectations of leadership at all levels are now greater than ever. Leaders in schools and trusts need governors and trustees who have properly funded national and local training and support so they can make positive and relevant contributions to our question of the month, alongside the many other questions they face when sustaining the environment for the children and young people in our schools and trusts.

At Evaluate-Ed, we understand the critical importance of effective governance. Our platform is designed to support governors and trustees by providing comprehensive self-evaluation tools that highlight strengths and identify areas for development across all aspects of school performance. By using Evaluate-Ed, you can ensure that your governance systems and structures are robust, transparent, and capable of driving continuous improvement.

Ready to enhance your governance processes? Explore how Evaluate-Ed can support your school’s journey to excellence. Book your demo today and start making data-driven decisions that truly impact student outcomes. Click Here 

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