Autumn 2020 Bulletin Contents
SGA Chair’s Autumn Report ................................. 2
Congratulation to Doris .......................................... 3
DfE proposed overhaul to Adoption ...................... 4
Strictly Education 4S Steve Barker ........................ 6
COVID-19 Stay Safe Essentials ............................. 7
Schools Alliance for Excellence ............................. 8
New Appointment in Surrey ................................... 9
News from NGA .................................................. 10
Take a Moment's Thought .................................... 11
Geoffrey’s Discussion Point ................................. 12
Mental Health Support for Schools ...................... 14
Support for working Families in Covid –19 ......... 16
Orbis Schools Bulletin Cloud Computing ............ 17
Cognus LA Governor Nominations ..................... 21
Strictly 4S Autumn Training Programme ............ 22
Come Back Soon .................................................. 25
Geoffrey's Discussion PointIssues to resolve that we ought to talk about openly only don’t
The ‘Joys’ and ‘Bills’ of Governance – how we keep them coming and how we entertain them.
There is no doubt, that acting as a school governor can be joyful, even personally be very rewarding, especially if you play your part in strategically directing education and fulfilling those simple yet broad responsibilities which all Governors and Trustees are charged with by the DfE’s Governance Handbook:- All boards, no matter what type of schools or how many schools they govern, have three core functions:
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
- Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff; and
- Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.
The fact is, that by so doing, you play an important part in your community in helping the development and learning of the next generation. Providing the environment to encourage the ongoing consolidation of a literate, well rounded, inclusive, fair-minded, confident community and Nation. What you get out of governance really depends on what you personally put in, for it’s all important work and it’s all entirely voluntary. A job that when done well, should be recognised acknowledged and yes even truly rewarded.
Therefore it is wonderful news, that a long serving and a very active member of Surrey Governance, Doris Neville - Davies has been honoured for her service to Education as a School Governor and Trustee. On receiving the news Doris said “It is very satisfying to have governance recognised – hopefully it will encourage others to join our ranks “
Hopefully it will, for in recent years with the many pressures on life, work, community and family the numbers of governors especially in certain sectors have diminished. So leaving a little space for fresh energetic and vital new blood - Are you up for it?
In case you are wondering why there has been a fallaway in numbers from such a vital, challenging, rewarding and responsible service as governance. I will first allay your curiosity, like many issues there is not one but several reasons including of course the inevitable ironies of life and the usual array of life’s pressures. The fact that so many are genuinely struggling to find the time, being most given as the main cause.
This of course is one of those ironies as the more gadgets and technology we have like those talk to controls e.g., Alexia and Siri that help us do everything, the less time we apparently have for ourselves. Sadly, there’s also been the natural decline in governor numbers which should have been anticipated, since the big recruiting drive of some14 years ago, for many of those have done eight or twelve years dedicated service and have now retired or moved on. However, there is in this county, as there is in one or two other education authorities around the country an underlying problem that causes a slow attrition and goes unnoticed until it becomes a major problem. It’s not yet at that stage but it is wors- ening and is an issue which I have aired before.
It is basically the issue of recognition, which at its sim- plest is the missing: thank you, the occasional smile, the supporting hand, right through to a lack of respect, out- right contempt and even disrespect.
The problem really started to come to my attention about 5 years ago when I became Vice Chair of Surrey Governance Association and was also elected to the Surrey Schools Forum. I had already been a School Governor. Vice Chair and Chair of Governors at my community school’ for several years. Studied leadership, tribunals, HT appraisal, child protection, SEND with Babcoock4S and been appointed as a Surrey Advanced Skills Governor (ASG). Having always been a regular attender at Governor CPD and Surrey’s termly Chairs of Governors meetings. At all the events or conferences I attended many of the same faces would appear. The reality being that despite a county of some 5,000 governors only about 300 were involved beyond their own school governing body.
Clearly, as should have been reasonably obvious, as a volunteer force the multiple function dedicated governors, in the main, had to come from those who were either retired from the day job or with the time to spare and having the desire to dedicate that time to supporting Surrey Governance. My offices began to draw mail and enquiry from other governors on many issues but one which became a slightly troubling and a regular subject was coming from long serving Governors having recently left the service saying to the effect that: –
‘Having served as a Governor for many years while they may have had a card from their own school FGB they had received no thanks or consideration from the county or other institutions they had supported and served through their role in education e.g., church schools, SCC, appointed training agencies, education committees, Academy sponsors etc.’
Now the vast majority of governors do not join either for financial reward or for any form of adoration. However, an occasional thank you never went amiss, often creating mutual respect, greater collaboration. cooperation and communication.
I was surprised, for though no governors had left my FGB in recent years, I had some years earlier as Chair handed out to our long serving retiring governors with my thanks and testimony, a card from all our governors, with from the SCC a certificate and a letter thanking these governors for their long service and support over the years and also similar appreciation from the diocese (we were not even a church school only affiliated).
On enquiry as to what had happened to this recognition, I was informed that given cuts and admin difficulties the custom had been dropped and any appreciation was now simply down to each individual school. After all, many will tell you that service is its own reward! While this is a truism it also allows the exploitation of those who give; by others who for their own ends are of a greedy and self-serving nature to take the credit for their own reward.
After all, you cannot in leadership expect those who feel unappreciated, undervalued or ignored either to want to as- sist you next time or to recommend others who may be con- sidering joining or helping you, that doing so is a good idea.
Personally, I have always found the reward and the satisfaction is in a job well done and the more I have put into anything the more rewarding it has been to have attained the success. However in so doing, I have always diligently thanked appreciated and where appropriate and proper, praised and been grateful to all those who have assisted me in the achievement.
So imagine my surprise when I discover that there is not only a lack of appreciation and acknowledgment but a fair amount of hos- tility. Although Governance is given freely there is also a cost that should be met and if it is not met will finish up in deteriorating governance and an even greater problem that will not serve educa- tion our community or our future generations well.
Like all things that claim to be free you don’t have to go too far to see that there is a cost in the vicinity.
To enable governors to do a good job, you have to invest in them, in their initial induction, specific skills training, including custom and practice within the education environment. CPD is also high in this investment closely followed by regular quality informing and appraising them of all that is new and current. This along with the facilitating opportunity of conference and peer to peer knowledge exchange in specialisms and general good practice for this harvests valuable feedback and so by listening to the outcomes of governance scrutiny, assessments, strategies and then being prepared to evaluate and apply their appropriate recommendations can education provision be developed.
This vitally important investment in governance has been failing and shrinking in a way that is not conducive to good management practice, personnel development nor the future of appropriate edu- cation. Sadly, we need to look back to where we were 5 years ago, not to return, for going back is something I have never advocated but to gather the threads of those good management communi- cation tools that had inadvertently been left behind, planting them into the pending post COVID-19 recovery and development of effective governance.
Survey governance in 2015/2016 benefited from:
- termly Chairs and Heads meetings
- termly Hot Topics for all Governors
- regular CPD lectures
- 2 Surrey Governance Conferences
- specialist subject conferences for Leaders and Management
- ASG’s met termly for briefing and de briefing
- SGA twice termly meetings with the SCC Education Directorate
All of these events took place in major conference venues or hotel facilities where comfortable seating reasonable proficient audio and video equipment, coffee, snacks and easy parking all helped to facilitate positive feelings and good communication. Many governors would meet senior members of the County’s Education Directorate, network with members of the Education Committee and others whose interest was focused on Surrey education. sharing recent experiences and current thinking. Most importantly the locations, content, participation and listening al- lowed governors to feel valued and respected. The consultation and exchange providing a big team ‘all working together in the same direction’ atmosphere.
Soon though the effects of financial cuts, the restructuring of the County’s Education Department with major changes in Direc- torate. The down grading of locations, support and conference was to begin moving to public buildings and school halls with bitter coffee from an urn and often provided with chairs or hard stools designed for Year 3 children became the order of the day (a technique offered to Headteachers by the unwritten guide ‘how to managing your governors’ - getting them to go home quickly).
The regular ASG meetings came to an end and ASG’s were more or less left free to organise assignments for themselves their fate fell between the old directorate and the new and so withered away. Then once disassembled and mainly gone someone realized how valuable they were and appointed at some extensive cost an out-of-town agency, who has little local knowledge yet try desperately hard at not inconsiderable expense and frustration to many to create a ‘doppelganger’ of that service which had for many years served Surrey, so well.
Governors began to feel less valued, the reduction of open com- munication and networking reduced those interested in attending. Whilst the discomfort of the environments discouraged others and the poor or non-existing video and audio equipment did not help. All in themselves little things and currently with COVID-19 we only meet in the strange environment of the internet world with its poor connectivity that is well behind the standard needed to make it efficient,. Though, with a comfortable chair, favourite coffee and no petrol it has to be said Zoom is getting there.
Once again we are looking at a complex, long and slow slippery slope but undoubtedly every little element of unsatisfactory conduct discomfort and irritation will potentially build to a explosive situation. The great advantage of governors is they can bring expertise from the wider world and local community into the inner chambers of education, broadening the perspective and so focusing on delivery of value to the community. The great advantage of the community being involved in shaping the values and learning is that it will help the universal understanding of what will be needed for future growth, success and harmony.
Sadly, today there are fewer governors from outside education than used to be and a higher proportion of educationalist in governance I applauded everyone of them for their commitment, dedication and loyalty to governance but all governors do need to actively encourage governors from outside the walls of academia to bring a broader and more liberal dimension to our schools.
As a great majority of those being educated will eventually be engaged in life outside academia the advantages that governors from the private and commercial sector like myself, with 50 years senior management experience in the commercial world bring, Is that the strong principles of public life (lord Nolan 1995) that are reverenced in all academic environments also apply equally in the commercial workforce. For the reality is, in terms of personnel management (HR). Leadership and propriety there is little if any difference between public and private organisations only a very dangerous perception that a defining difference exists.
Many organisations especially in meeting change and technology face struggles at different stages as they develop, because they make a big mistake – in the early days an organisation deals primarily with the customer and learns that meeting the customer’s needs brings ‘Joy’. As they grow larger and more self confident organisations then gravitate to consult with investors, work colleagues, managers, sup- pliers and focus on major customers. Unfortunately not realizing that all in this group often have a vested interest in protection of their personal investment in the business. They are unlikely to venture anything which may upset you or may remotely damage their comfort zone. The focus moves from the ‘Joys’ of the customers to worrying about the ‘Bills’.
It is the onlooker and the disenfranchised who always sees ‘more of the game’. If you truly wish to know how well you are doing and the prevalence of any aspect of change around your organisation’s operation or the direction it is moving or is likely to move in. Governors must talk and consult constructively with those who have left because this is the only element of any organisation’s people who importantly have nothing to lose by giving you the essential truth that will ultimately enable harmonization of the various groups who contribute to your organisation’s success, enabling them to move forward together.
There are of course some other areas of voluntary service where silent discontent can occur both affecting quality recruitment and retention. They are not easily detected but they can seriously affect progress, contribution and recruitment. There are more than you may think who falsely despise the volunteers for taking away jobs and services for which they or colleagues could be paid. There are employees who consider volunteers as an interruption to their work and progress. There are those who consider volunteer Governors and Trustees as simply superfluous to the organisation, in our case education and there are those who resent the independence and ability they have to speak freely or call into question situations from afar when their livelihoods are not dependant upon them.
All these are small and often isolated incidents or the odd person you come across but when you come across a teaching school that offers programmes to Headteachers on how to manage your Governors rather than one on how to work with your Governors, you know these myriad of little resentments are building up.
Then among the last but not always the least are all the many areas of unintended consequences, often closely associated with the common curse of all organisations. Communications: solid, consistent, easily understood, substantially agreed communica- tion that can galvanize everyone into fulfilling the goal to the very best of their ability and enjoy the full reward of a successful outcome, to which they were a recognised contributor. It is not so much that it is broken but we are all stuck with the situation as dictated by the Pandemic and until we can get back to re- specting and working with each other as a united, coordinated, collaborative, fully communicating team we will struggle individ- ually and education will suffer in consequence.
Finally, here is the rub; if governance is to confirm the important role it has in education it has to be up to existing Governors and Trustees to do something about improving the relationships, the respect and the communication and turning the lip service paid by many to governance, into positive good for everyone in your school’s community. In fact, if you want to do anything about any or all of the issues mentioned in this article. If you truly care about your vital role in supporting continuous improvement, high standards in education and delivering a world beating quality inclusive education service for every child in Surrey. One route to achieving this is by your discussions with all your contacts and the regular work you do in your school and through engaging your concerns for Governance in Surrey with the Surrey Education Directorate.
The most effective way to that goal is through the SGA
for we are dedicated to you as Governors and Trustees delivering a voluntary service that ensures the values the support, the respect and the recognition of those who serve the development of our children and security of our future community.
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SGA AGM Conference 2019Their slide presentations are contained in the combined presentation below which is downloadable except the slides of Prof. Dr Anne Bamford OBE are only available to attendees at the conference.
The Chair’s annual report is also available here.
In a few day time the conference reports will become available all of which will be part of the Autumn Bulletin
SGA AGM 2019 Presentation
SGA Chairs Report 2019
Take a Break To Reflect
By Geoffrey Hackett
Having faced so much change that has been forced upon us all by the events surrounding the challenges in fighting the coronavirus pandemic might, I suggest we pause over a coffee and think...Read more
Are you receiving your SGA BulletinsSome Governors and Trustees have said they did not receive the last bulletin. We have traditionally circulated through schools via Headteachers and Clerks but names change and some items become diverted to junk mail. If you are not receiving your copy and borrowing a friends, you can ask us to send your copies direct to you .Simply send your email address and the school’s name where you govern to firstname.lastname@example.org. Membership is currently free to all Surrey Governors and Trustees
The SGA Bulletins - are for everyone in Surrey education
Surrey Governance Association and SEND Teaching School agree to LinkGeoffrey Hackett Chair of SGA writes: - This link between our two websites illustrates the increasing need to share experience and knowledge not only across education but up and down each strand of education.... Read more