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Query for governors

(17 Posts)
sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 10:33:53

I became a parent governor last year in an attempt to a) help our school and b) 'get to the bottom' of what is / is not going on.

Anyhow I have now been to a year's worth of meetings. What struck me from the first meeting was how unengaged most of the governors are (there are no questions in the meeting, everyone just wears a glazed expression wondering when they can go home). If you ask questions its quite obvious you are a 'PITA'. Only 1 other governor seems to share my unease. I have tried asking the other governors and they think everything is great.

There is a total lack of transparency concerning finance and my feeling is we are rather staff / spouse of staff heavy on the governors. There are 3 (or maybe only 2) governors who hold all the information (staff and / or spouse of staff) and everyone else seems to be stupified in the dark (mushrooms come to mind).

Anyhow there are some pretty big potential changes a foot and I don't feel comfortable that I'm able to vote / agree / disagree with any of these because I am not equipped with all the information. I have tried asking for information (like annual budget and 3 year plan) but this is usually given the brush off.

The other governor has suggested 'direct action'. But I'm not sure who we go to. We are CofE school. Can we go to the diocese? Who is in charge of governing bodies? And TBH my kids are older than hers and we will probably move them anyway in the next 2-4 years where as she has 'more skin in the game'.

Any governors out there who can advise??

BrendansDanceShoes Mon 13-Nov-17 12:31:09

I've been a parent governor for 3 years now. Your county council should have a Governor services department, from which you could gain advice. - Did you receive induction training from them? Sounds like a worry to me - all governors should have access to the latest annual budget data and 3 year plan. If OFSTED came in and found this state of affairs, they'd be less than impressed. I think there is a way to send me a message via Mumsnet, I'm a newbie to this, and i'd be happy to help further

sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 13:08:52

Many thanks. I have messaged you.

BubblesBuddy Mon 13-Nov-17 13:39:44

I used to run Governor training and I am sorry to say it, but your GB is a disgrace.

I think you urgently need to do all the training you can. My LA runs training for governors but each GB has to pay for it as part of the GB Services package. The package includes Clerking (who Clerks your GB?), all training and the annual conference and a tailored training session for the whole GB. Therefore governors can do induction training and training to enhance their role on the GB as well as have a session dedicated to a particular issue they are facing.

At our finance training, the budgets for the schools are handed out and they form the basis for discussion about challenges for the future. Healthy budget or not? Three year projections so planning can take place. The full GB must also agree the annual budget so you are not even doing what is legally required. If you have a Finance Committee they must report to the full GB. Minutes should be circulated to all.

I do find C of E schools are very inclined to get training from the Diocese and not the LA. Is this what your school does? It can be a very cosy relationship. Also you do have to be THAT Governor if the GB are not following legal requirements. What else are they not doing?

There is a National Governors’ Assiciation and you could join that for excellent advice and read the Governmrnt’s web site on the role of Governors and the legal requirements. A lot of work/decisions can be done by Committees but not everything.

I would worry about the arrival of Ofsted. If I can be of further help, do contact me.

sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 13:57:12

Personally I haven't done any governors training (I work fulltime) but without that I can say I have never worked for an organisation which operates in such a way.. We get the clerk from the council. I dont think we are suffering from a lack of training - I think its a rather closed shop which works for those in it and those not in it have either never been bothered or cant be bothered any more. So my feeling is we need an external body to do a kind of 'soft' audit to find out what's happening and improve it.

Council Mon 13-Nov-17 14:04:30

When was the last OFSTED and how did you do?

A weak governing body will always let you down in an inspection IME. My last school (which was outstanding) had a head who practically forced the GB to be more involved, regular visits lots of challenge, the one before that (which ended up RI) had a head who preferred governor meetings to be a tick box exercise without any challenge.

Usually there's a limit in the instrument of governance on how many staff governors there can be (also how many parents). TBH parent governors who come to "sort things out" often aren't helpful either, as what they mean is how can I make this schools better for my DC and it's very hard to be objective over decision that will affect your child.

There are lots of ex-head/ex-OFSTED inspectors offering consultancy work to review the effectiveness of GBs ahead of OFSTED visits. They do vary in quality but can be helpful. Maybe speak to other schools locally about who they've used?

sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 14:11:55

Ofsted was a couple of years ago and they were disappointed to get Good but I from what I've seen that was more than fair.
There is no challenge at the meetings - radio silence.
Crumbs this 'TBH parent governors who come to "sort things out" often aren't helpful either, as what they mean is how can I make this schools better for my DC and it's very hard to be objective over decision that will affect your child.' is a bit harsh????? eh? Anyhow...
Given that 11/13 of the GB think everything is more than tickety boo (because they either get their own way - 3/13 or one of the 7/13 who just want to get to the end of the meeting) I cant think they will see the value in engaging an external consultant when we clearly have no issue?

Council Mon 13-Nov-17 14:17:03

What did OFSTED say about the GB? It can't be that bad if you got Good, it must, on paper at least, be fulfilling it's obligations.

That is my experience of parent governors. Whenever anything is discussed you can see their mind working out how that's going to affect their child - would be very difficult for that not to happen.That's not always bad, but you wouldn't want too many of them, just as you don't want too many staff governors.

What is it that you think needs challenging?

sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 14:26:58

On paper its fine. Reality is very poor. What needs challenging? We have a very high ratio of admin: children (double most other schools of the same size) and we are making teachers redundant to save money rather than reducing amount of admin. Head of admin also has reigns on finance - if I ask to see anything about finance there's always a reason why this is not possible...
I think its unusual to have GB meetings where no one asks any questions?
Also finance minutes of meetings are not made available to everyone, only some people seem to get them.
TBH I thought being a governor would be alot of work but so far it seems to involve very little (anything I've suggested so far has been 'forgotten' before it even gets raised).
Other than that its all great ;-)

sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 14:28:19

And when I say good I believe RI was narrowly avoided.. so it was a long way off the expected 'Outstanding'

sallythesheep73 Mon 13-Nov-17 14:49:53

Personally the multiple conflicts of interest concern me. If council is worried about parents become parent governors I am more concerned about staff being in charge of the budget especially when cuts are inevitable due to falling numbers on roll. This is before we get on to chair's husband is also a member of staff and is friendly with head of administrative who is in charge of the budget (which some ofriends us are not allowed to see...).

Greatballs Mon 13-Nov-17 14:53:42

Are you on Facebook? The group: School Governors UK is a fantastic place for advice and support. I'll bet someone on there would be able to advise you.

Council Mon 13-Nov-17 14:58:53

Ok, if you have a clerk provided by the LA, I'd enlist his/her help.

That's what I've done at my current school where there's lots of room for improvement. Clerks are usually very knowledgeable and can tell the GB what goes on at other schools and remind them o f their obligations.

Yes it's unusual for no questions, the clerk should be prompting, the minutes need to show challenge or that will be picked up by OFSTED. Clerk should also be leading/advising on conflicts, although this can be hard for them when there is a domineering chair, they will often respond well if getting support from even a couple of governors.

I'd be wary of targeting admin staff without a full understanding though. For example at my current school we seem heavy on admin but admin are doing a lot of things that were done in the classroom at my previous school, which has to be more efficient?

The minutes are a public record anyone can see them you don't need to be a governor or on any committee.

I think you all need some training. The responsibilities of governors are terrifying"! TBH, I don't know why anyone's prepared to take on that level of responsibility unpaid, but I think if they fully understood where the buck stops they'd be more thorough. You're right, done properly it's a big job, one I think most people with a full time job would struggle to manage.

admission Mon 13-Nov-17 15:24:28

Clearly this is a governing board that is not functioning correctly. If it is a faith school then many of the governors will have been appointed by the Diocese. To answer your question the person you should be addressing your concerns is the director of the diocese but the problem is that if many of the GB have been appointed by the Diocese then the reality is that you may find that a difficult road to go down to start with.
I would suggest that you and your colleague should put down in writing your concerns (or at least the main ones) and send it to the Chair of Governors and to the clerk and ask for a meeting to discuss how things can be improved. That at least gives notice to the Chair that things need to change and allows them to potentially take some action. I suspect that there will be little if anything in the way of action but at least that then allows you to go to the Director of Education at the Diocese with a clear conscious that you are not going behind their back.
What you need to be saying to the Chair is that you believe a good first step is to get an external review of governance carried out. This will probably cost the school but if it sets the GB on the right path forward then it is well worth it. Anybody who is going to do it needs to have been properly trained. I could do that depending where you are in the country or the National Governance Association would be able to do it amongst others.
As an experienced Chair of Governors I would be really worried by a lot of the things you say, especially around the finances being controlled by the head of admin. One of the three key roles of the GB is to ensure finances are sound, it simply cannot be done correctly if it is being kept secret and even more so if you are heading for deficits
Please feel free to PM about governance as a whole or specific questions.

PanelChair Mon 13-Nov-17 15:30:36

This sounds uncomfortably like the GB of the school where I was a governor. It had lost sight of its role as "critical friend" and generally behaved more like a cheerleader for the rather fragile HT.

Admission's already offered sound advice on what to do next, but feel free to PM me if you want to chat or let off steam.

BubblesBuddy Mon 13-Nov-17 19:29:34

I think the term “critical friend” has been ditched because it’s difficult to be a friend of the Head if you are performance managing them. Critical isn’t helpful either. It should be a professional relationship between fellow professionals.

I do think, sally, you are wrong not to have accessed training. How do you know what you are doing? Lots of Governors work full time. If you take on an important role, you need to understand it.

Benchmarking might show your admin is expensive but lots of schools do this to stop teachers collecting money, photocopying, arranging school trips, etc. Do you benchmark your financial performance?

Your Clerk must be poor if the minutes of all committee meetings are not on the Agenda. I wouldn’t think they are up to advising. Not all Governors know the intricacies of finance so if you want to know, get on the Finance Committee or equivalent. Are you actually saying the whole GB does not see the budget to agree it?

I cannot see why the Givernors would agree to an audit. They seem happy with inactivity. The other obvious way is to get yourself up to speed. You must do this. For example do you have a SDP? Who is responsible for monitoring it? Do you have Governors attached to curriculum areas? Do they report to Governors? If not, this needs setting up. Does the GB review it’s effectiveness? You could instigate this if you knew what effective looks like. What evidence do you have that shows they are effective or otherwise? Which Governors do Performance Management of the Head? You could do this if you got trained! What about interrogating performance data for the children? Do you do it in a Committee? How do you know the school is effective in its core job of educating the children. What about the effective use of pp money.

What does the Head put in their report to the GB? This is a key document and there is a template for what should be included. Does yours measure up? This is the document that elicits questions from our GB and we submit them 4 days before the meeting and the Head submits written answers to everyone. If you haven’t trained you won’t know what to expect and the mechanisms for challenge.

Ofsted won’t care much about admin costs and reducing them probably won’t save a teacher. Working out staff reduction is a big challenge so possibly you need to get up to speed on the GB’s role in that too. Looks like there is a lot of work to do and you could find out more for yourself if you take the time and take your role seriously.

Pud2 Mon 13-Nov-17 22:28:30

Where is the head in all this? They should be recognising the problems and driving for improvement. You can't really lead on it as a parent governor. Do you get all the papers beforehand so that governors can prepare questions? You should certainly have an overview of the budget though you shouldn't have access to everything eg, you shouldn't see individual salaries. Benchmarking should be on the agenda which would help you to compare your admin costs with similar schools. It sounds like this governing body wouldn't have a clue about the data or the strategic direction of the school if OFSTED arrived and that would pull the school down to RI.

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