Friday, 21 January 2011

Responsibility for raising standards in Schools

Responsibility for raising standards

Despite the volume of legislation and regulations affecting school governance it is a common complaint, not least among governors, that the role of the governor is unclear. At the outset of local management of schools in the 1980s, there was a strong movement towards governors acting as quasi-managers. They consequently tended to become involved with non-educational matters, such as premises, as many of them felt more comfortable with these than with those closer to the heart of education. Opening up the 'secret garden' of the curriculum to lay governors was not an easy job, but training and support from local education authorities helped break down the barriers.

The School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and subsequent regulations went a long way towards clarifying what governors should be doing. This Act put the governor's role in the context of the drive to improve schools and pupil performance – a principle that is now 12 years old but is still as valid as ever.

'Raising standards' might seem to be a finite task, related only to academic performance and pre-supposing a level at which exam results can get as good as can realistically be expected. But this is not the real point of this much repeated phrase. For one thing, the quality of education offered by a school cannot just be measured in academic results. But more importantly, behind this upwards drive is the recognition that, in a rapidly changing world, education cannot stand still. Schools need to adapt to change and, even better, to anticipate it. No school can therefore remain where it is; it will either improve or deteriorate. The primacy then of seeking improving standards comes about through a recognition that schools need to look at how they do things, because what worked well 10 years ago, or even last year, cannot be relied on still to work well tomorrow.

Written by: Jane Martin and Stephen Adamson

About the authors

Dr Jane Martin is currently Local Government Ombudsman and Vice-Chair of the Commission for Local Administration in England. A former local authority officer responsible for school governance, she has researched and written widely on education and school governance issues.

Stephen Adamson is an author and publisher of books offering practical guidance for school governors. He is Vice-Chair of the National Governors' Association.

The full article can be found at

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