Sunday, 25 April 2010

Guest Blog on Safeguarding

This Blog Article was first published as a Guest Blog on the Supergovernor Blog on 25th April 2010

When I volunteered to take over as Chair of Governors in October last year, little did I realise at the time that I would be expected to lead Safeguarding within the governing body. Initially I argued that being a parent governor would put me in a difficult position in a small school of 90 pupils, as I knew everyone.

However, it was explained to me by the Head and other members of the GB that the Chair has unique access & trust relationships with the head and the role of chair and safeguarding usually go hand in hand. I was not convinced of this argument but agreed I would try the safeguarding role for the first six months of my chairship. When speaking on child protection matters we never use the child or family name in our discussions so anonymity is protected.

Like most things in life I prepared by researching, reading, taking part in training and asking questions.

I looked up everything I could on the Internet in relation to Safeguarding including reading Every Child Matters, Sir Michael Bichard’s enquiry from Soham, and the more recent findings of Lord Lamming’s enquiry into the tragic events of Haringey.

One of my first acts was to ask that all governors have Enhanced CRB Checks; I know this is not a statutory requirement but I wanted us to lead by example from a governing body.

Safeguarding is not just about what used to be called Child Protection. Behaviour, Bullying, Health & Safety, risk assessments, race equality, whistle blowing, safe use of the internet and educational visits all form part of Safeguarding.

I quickly made up my mind I wanted to arrange a Governor monitoring visit on Safeguarding as soon as possible. I know the golden rule is that School Governors are not inspectors – well this is one area where I think you can ignore and break this rule with the prior consent of the head teacher.

A month after I took over monitoring Safeguarding I completed a Safeguarding audit using Ofsted’s new framework guidance to inspectors on judging Safeguarding. I used this Section 5 guidance document to audit the single list and ask the right questions to see the correct evidence. It can be downloaded from

I also attended the ‘Role of the Governing Body in Safeguarding’ course and completed the Online Safer Recruitment course which is available for free at

Both these events were to prove timely as 100 days after I took over the chair & safeguarding we got the call that Ofsted were inspecting us.

The Ofsted inspector grilled me on Safeguarding during my Interview; he paid particularly attention to what would happen if there was an allegation against the head teacher.

On the monitoring evidence question I gave him my report aligned to Section 5 advice for inspectors. He seemed really impressed with this and said he wished more Governing bodies took this approach.

He quizzed me on Safer Recruitment. Even though it is statutory that only one on a panel are required to complete training four of us on the Governing body have completed this training.

I completed this course the week before the inspection so was able to answer the questions he posed with ease.

In his inspectation report the Ofsted inspector judged our safeguarding to be grade 1 /Outstanding and said “Safeguarding procedures are highly effective and closely monitored by the chair of Governors.”

Safeguarding is now a limiting factor in the new Ofsted framework meaning you are highly unlikely to become an overall Outstanding School unless your Safeguarding is outstanding.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Guest Blog on Parent Governor Representatives

This Blog Article was first published as a Guest Blog on ModernGovernor on 19th April 2010.

In 2009 my Clerk of Governors forwarded me an email asking for parent governors to volunteer to stand for our County Council Schools & Learning Select Committee as Parent Governor Representatives.

I did some background research to find that:

Parent Governor Representatives (PGRs) are elected from serving parent governors to represent the views of all parents on local authority committees dealing with education matters.
PGRs were first established in the School Standards and Framework Act 1998. PGRs have speaking rights on any issue under discussion by the committee.
The role of the PGR is, primarily, to hold their local authority to account by consulting with and feeding back to parents on discussions and decisions relating to education.
It all sounded very interesting so I submitted my nomination form seconded by two fellow parent governors.

As election time neared I emailed our Governors Association, who were running the election, to find out why the ballot papers had not been sent out to parent governors.

I was delighted and saddened to learn I was the only applicant for the three PGR vacancies so I was duly elected without the need for a ballot.

Although I was delighted to be joining the select committee I was saddened by the apathy that no other parent governor had put their self forward for nomination.

The select committee is very akin to a school governing body where we act as a critical fiend and ensure accountability of the local authority.

But it is not all about reading committee papers, sitting through power-point presentations, listening and challenging; we also have the opportunity to have training and field fact finding trips.

At my first meeting we visited an Outdoor Educational Centre. We had a full VIP tour of facility and had the opportunity to speak to the staff. It is a truly inspirational place and the staff are clearly very passionate about what they achieve there.

The majority of the Select committee meetings start at 10am and finish around 12.30pm. Sometimes there may be a short presentation or fact finding visit afterwards which is purely optional but often beneficial.

There are around seven committee meetings per year plus the odd special meeting. This works out at less than 20 hours per year sitting on the actual committee which is not as big a commitment as some might think during the business day.

I have found the whole experience very interesting and rewarding so far and hope I continue to do so.I would certainly encourage fellow parent governors reading this to find out if their local authority has any PGR vacancies.

I sit on Surrey County Council Schools & Learning Select Committee so if you happen to be a parent governor in Surrey we have two PGR vacancies at this time. More info on Surrey’s PGR Webpage here.

by Sean Whetstone

Chairman of Governors of Polesden Lacey Infant School, Bookham
Parent Governor Representative Member of Surrey County Council Schools & Learning Select Committee

Monday, 5 April 2010

Guest Blog on 21st Century Governance on SuperGovernor

This Blog Article was first published as a Guest Blog on the Supergovernor Blog on 5th April 2010.

You Twitterers out there may already know Sean Whetstone (@schoolgoverning). A great supporter of this blog he writes a guest post today on the government’s latest report into school governance. Enjoy!

I am writing this guest blog two days after the government released its long awaited review on School Governance in the 21st century. It is perhaps unfortunate that the working group decided to release the publication on April fools day as it is no joke.

The review doesn’t contain any surprises and many of the anticipated recommendations for governance have been watered down.

The key recommendations are:

• The majority of governing bodies do a good job;
• Governing bodies need to be clear about their purpose and follow a defined set of principles for good governance of schools;
• There needs to be more clarity concerning the strategic management role of the governing body and the day to day management role of head teachers to ensure that neither party crosses over into each other’s role;
• The principle of stakeholder representation on governing bodies is essential but needs to be balanced against a requirement that all governing bodies have the necessary skills to carry out their tasks;
• Improvements to the training for governing body chairs, new governors and governing body clerks needs to be made to clarify the points above.

It is well worth a read and the full 33 page document can be found at

I am glad many of the recommendations complement what my own governing body has been trying to achieve.

When I became a School Governor just 18 short months ago we operated an old style committee structure based around six committees of Assets, Finance, Curriculum, Personnel, Communications and Eco Schools.

In my first two weeks as a governor, the full governing body attended a workshop training session for 21st century governance. The session was led by Steve Barker from VT FourS, a School Governance trainer/consultant for Surrey as well as a Chair of Governors for two schools & an Ofsted Inspector.

Following this informative training workshop, the governing body agreed to re-structure the committee work into just two formal committees.
The Resources committee deals with finance, health & safety and personnel while the Children & Learning committee deals with the curriculum, attainment and safeguarding.

Both of these new committees are very closely aligned to the SEF (Self Evaluation Form). The annual work programme for each committee sets out which strategic, informational and policy review items should be reviewed each term and what sections of the SEF they relate to. It also means we don’t get sucked into discussing “the colour of curtains” as Steve Barker calls it.

18 months later and we wouldn’t dream of returning to the old committee structure.

Another important part of 21st century School Governance highlighted in the review is training. I completely support this recommendation.

I would certainly recommend every School governor completes a blend of face to face, online and whole governing body training sessions.
In my first 18 months of being a School Governor I completed nine courses to help prepare me to give the appropriate skills to support, challenge and help lead the school.

In January this year our school received an Ofsted Inspection under the new framework and along with the whole school the Governing Body was judged to be Grade 1/Outstanding.

I hope our restructuring and focus on training led towards this judgement.


Sean Whetstone

Chair of Governors at a Surrey Infant School

Parent Governor Representative of County Council Schools & Learning Select Committee

@SchoolGoverning on twitter