Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Governance is about calling the headteacher to account not the School

The task of governing

The focus of interest of the governing bodies appeared to be ‘the school’ in its totality. Governors in high quality governing bodies of successful schools rarely viewed the task of governing as focused on the headteacher or the school leadership. Thus, construing ‘governing’ as ‘calling the headteacher to account’and ‘challenging the headteacher’ is at odds with notions of how governing was construed in many of the schools 'the hidden givers' report researchers studied.

Viewing School governing in this way is all the more problematic because headteachers and other members of the school staff are also members of school governing bodies. The task that was evident in many of the governing bodies they witnessed, especially those that were deemed to be effective,was ‘scrutiny’ – checking, asking questions, making sure the right decisions were being made, querying data, ensuring due processes had been followed, and so on. This scrutiny applied to strategic matters of course, but to significant operational matters too. Where governing was weak, or was reported as having been weak in the past, lack of scrutiny was at the heart of the weakness. Scrutiny of performance data is essential and the effective governing bodies they looked at were adept at performance data scrutiny.

Interestingly, the effective governing bodies they witnessed in action were very much self-scrutinising – ‘Are we doing the right thing here?’ This notion of self-scrutiny is understandable given that headteachers and staff are members of school governing bodies.

Further, some of the work of a full governing body will be scrutinising the work of its own committees. In addition, some of the exchanges they witnessed in full governing body meetings referred back to, and corroborated, previous decisions. This self scrutiny seemed to be part of ensuring the governing body was acting properly.

In all the schools The Hidden Givers report studied, it was axiomatic that school governors supported the school and the headteacher, and any reservations about the school and what it was doing that were voiced – and we did hear some – were couched positively.

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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