Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Who Governs the Governors: Different Models of Governance

Different models of governance

‘Freedom and flexibility’

The governance models of academies, federations, cluster schools, and free schools suggest that the freedom to develop innovative approaches to schools and their governing bodies has often been associated with improved education across the country for many children, regardless of their catchment areas.

The success of academies, such as Ark Schools and the Harris Federation of South London Schools, where “results for English and mathematics have improved by up to four times the national average in each of the last four years”,demonstrates, that the independence to introduce strategies that are suited to individual school circumstances allows for rapid and often dramatic improvement in failing schools.

Free Schools Movement

The Free Schools Movement advocates a similar degree of autonomy for schools. Founded by parents, organisations, and other interest groups dissatisfied with the provision of education in their catchment area, a free school can be set up if the group can show a viable business plan.

A key difference between academies and free schools is the latter’s funding by the government. Another difference is that academies are also built on the foundations of unsuccessful schools, concentrating on their positive features and reforming the negative, including “an approach to attendance monitoring and educational welfare which has significantly improved attendance and timely procurement of educational psychology and special needs support”.

This argument which propagates the benefits of economics of scale that can be achieved by schools working in federation has previously been outlined in the Policy Exchange report, ‘Blocking the best – Obstacles to new independent schools’“One of the arguments against schools outside local authority control is that they will also be outside local authority support...Yet local authorities are not the only route to those economies. School chains or federations –
where ‘back office’ functions are shared by a number of schools to cut down costs standardise practice, and free up schools to teach – and have the advantages of a local authority without removing the bene.ts of competition and innovation.”

The academy movement has seen an increasing number of ‘multi-academy sponsors’ – central institutions which take on administrative functions and leave their individual schools to educate. Like local authorities these have the advantages of scale, but without being a geographical monopoly. Other school providers can compete and costs are lowered.

Just as federation and partnership models are being developed for teaching, we see a powerful case for developing this model for school governance as one way in which accountability can be increased and the calibre of governors may be improved at the same time. Giving boards wider responsibility and oversight for more than one institution will also appeal to potential candidates to serve on such boards.

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