Friday, 14 January 2011

The difference between Governing in primary and secondary schools

Governing in primary and secondary schools

Recruitment, induction and training

Participation in training is more likely by governors of primary schools.

One explanation of this finding is that primary school governors are likely to be inexperienced in governing and may therefore have a greater need for training and development. Their motivation to undertake training may be higher. The recommendation by the headteacher is more influential in terms of the attributes sought by primary school governing bodies. Headteachers may be more familiar with the attributes required of governors more clearly than the rest of the governing body especially in terms of the skills required. They seek capabilities to complement their own.

Secondary school governors are more likely to describe the task of governing as:

1. monitoring plans and targets

2. carrying out a scrutiny role

3. being a source of information about business, industry and careers

4. collaboration with other community institutions including schools.

The priority given to tasks 1 and 2 points to the more ‘long-distance’ way secondary schools are governed, as opposed to the closer involvement that was a characteristic of primary school governing in the case studies (see Chapter 4). Task 3 may be explained by the age range of secondary school pupils. Task 4 may relate to the size of the institution, the links with other institutions for curricular provision, and the greater likelihood of more collaborative links with other institutions including further education colleges and primary schools.

Governors of primary schools are more likely than those of secondary schools to see the task of governing as carrying out operational tasks. This finding may be because the task is differently construed. It may relate to the closer involvement of primary school governing bodies in the life of the school. However, because school governors of primary schools engage in more operational work, it does not necessarily mean that they govern strategically any less effectively. Indeed, the operational work may give them more knowledge and understanding of the institution on which to base strategic decisions and scrutiny. This interpretation is supported by the case study data.

Governing body functioning

Governing bodies of primary and secondary schools broadly function in the same way. This lack of difference between primary and secondary governing body functioning may be because primary and secondary governing bodies generally have similar functions to perform, which is again a finding borne out by the case studies.

Primary school governors find balancing their role as a governor with other responsibilities more challenging than secondary school governors. This finding may be because primary schools have fewer potential governing body members available to them. They may therefore be more likely to draw on potential members who already have a range of other commitments.

In secondary school governing bodies, the clerk is more likely to work in the school in a different capacity. This finding may be explained by secondary schools typically being larger organisations. They may therefore have more ‘clerking capacity’ available to them within the institution.

Effectiveness and impact

The range of views of primary and secondary school governors of the effectiveness of their governing bodies is similar. Thus, there is no difference between the views of primary governors and secondary governors as to whether their governing body works very effectively. Moreover, their assessments of their effectiveness agreed broadly with Ofsted assessments. The case study research supports this finding. It did not reveal any substantive differences between primary and secondary school governing body processes. However, as we discuss below, the effectiveness of primary school governing bodies strongly links to pupil attainment.

The link between secondary school governing body effectiveness and pupil attainment is only very weak. Thus primary school governing body effectiveness relates to pupil attainment in a way that secondary school governing does not.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.

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