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UNCORRECTED TRANSCRIPT OF ORAL EVIDENCE
To be published as HC 850-i
House of COMMONS
TAKEN BEFORE the
The Role of School Governing Bodies
Wednesday 30 January 2013
Emma Knights, Fergal Roche, Frank Newhofer and Richard Gold
Neil Calvert, Chris Hill, Mike Cladingbowl and PROFESSOR Chris James
Evidence heard in Public Questions 1-103
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Taken before the Education Committee
on Wednesday 30 January 2013
Mr Graham Stuart (Chair)
Mr David Ward
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Emma Knights, Chief Executive, National Governors’ Association, Fergal Roche, Chief Executive, Ten Professional Support, Frank Newhofer, School Governor, and Richard Gold, School Governor and Education Lawyer, gave evidence.
Q1 Chair: Good morning and welcome to this meeting of the Education Select Committee, as part of our inquiry into the role of school governing bodies. We do appreciate you giving up your time to be with us today, particularly when you are nursing an injury, Fergal. You have come here heroically anyway, so thank you. We tend to be quite informal here and use first names, so I hope you are all comfortable with that.
The role of the chair of a governing body is pretty important to the effectiveness of that group-you can always tell me if you disagree. How likely is it that someone who is a weak chair will leave office? How does one get rid of a weak chair of governors, given how critically important they are to the effective functioning of the governing body?
Emma Knights: In practice it has been quite difficult for governing bodies to address that issue. That is why we were really, really pleased that the Government raised the whole issue of the importance of chairs. The fact that the National College has had the chairs development programme, albeit it is still quite small and in its infancy, has really raised the profile of chairing, which is an incredibly good thing because, as you say, it is absolutely key to effectiveness. One of the implications we are noticing on our advice line is that more governing bodies are now ringing us and saying, "Oh no, people have not volunteered. Someone stepped down this September and when we looked round the governing body, nobody put their hand up." But actually, I think that is probably right and proper, because in the old days, as it were, people did feel obligated to do it and perhaps they did not have the right skills, the right knowledge or the right time. It is important we are now moving into a system where people really do value chairing and we make sure we get people doing that role who really can chair well.
Fergal Roche: I am very familiar with the poor chair role. I was persuaded to get involved with a governing body in Lambeth when I really was not in a position to do so and it was pretty disastrous. The head was very strong, but the governing body was extremely weak. I agreed to do it for a few months and that was about four years ago. The only way I have been able to perform the function of chair is by making sure that the three committee chairs are very strong. We have got the development plan, which is based on Ofsted criteria, and the committee chairs have to satisfy themselves that the school executive are giving them evidence that they are moving towards improvement in each of those areas. We have got a structure where it is much simpler to run the governing body, so my role is not anything like as onerous as it used to be, and I think it can be done.
Q2 Chair: Is there any way of getting rid of a chair who is alone in thinking they are doing a good job while everyone else thinks they are not? Should there be?
Richard Gold: Eventually you can get rid of the chair because the chair comes up for reelection every year. The underlying question is whether the governing body is strong enough to do that. A weak chair, to my mind, is often a symptom of a weak governing body anyway; that is much more of a problem.
Q3 Chair: What I have noticed in politics is if you get an idle or particularly poor Member of Parliament, of whichever party, people will resign from the party because they have got a lousy Member of Parliament and leave him in place, rather than encourage their friends to join to get rid of him. There tends to be this tendency to walk away rather than to replace the person who is causing a problem.
Richard Gold: Yes, but I think the bigger problem is not so much the weak chair of governors as the overdominant chair of governors; it is the chair who regards the school and the governing body as his or her own fiefdom and will not brook opposition. That can be very intimidating. It can make it very difficult for perhaps the minority of governors-perhaps new governors coming in-who do not like what they see, to get some action together and get the chair voted off.
Frank Newhofer: It does also indicate the importance of some external body that has the capacity to monitor the school on a regular basis and knows the school and can intervene from an external perspective. I think Emma is right in what she said. There very often are weak governing bodies that have put up with incumbent chairs for too long and it does require external intervention to bring that to the surface.
Fergal Roche: We have agreed that we will do a 360degree appraisal on the chair every year. I thought that was a great idea and someone said, "When are you going to have it done?" so I had it done a few months ago. I have put my response to it in my evidence. Having to go through that process means a chair has to account for weakness. Every chair is going to have some area of weakness, so you would hope that that might be a device that could be quite useful.
Emma Knights: Absolutely. I was going to mention that the chairs development programme has that as the first step. The National College use the word "diagnostic" rather than "360 review", but that is what it is, and we are really keen to encourage chairs to do that, because I completely agree with Fergal. I would also like to say that there are some chairs who are absolutely fabulous at chairing their governing bodies, and good governing bodies have succession plans; they look to who else they have got on the board that they could train, develop, use as vicechair or chair of a committee, and all sorts of other ways. I would not want you to be left with the impression that it is all impossible and terrible. There are ways of making this happen if you think about it.
Q4 Mr Ward: I am intrigued by the word "weak", because a very weak chair of governors may be regarded by the head teacher as being wonderful, because "they always agree with me" and in fact are seen by the governing body as being a very good chair because everything is going very well and everybody is very happy. This idea that this weakness is really apparent and open for everybody to see is not my experience.
Emma Knights: I agree. Often the word "cosy" is used by all sorts: that cosy relationship between an often longstanding chair and a head. Heads can be very pleased to be governed in that way and the rest of the governing body perhaps does not feel able to challenge that duo. Having said that, one tends to generalise terribly when talking like this; on the other hand, there are some very good heads who positively want to be challenged and understand that, in order for their school to be a secure place, governance needs to be right and proper.
Q5 Siobhain McDonagh: Richard, do we really need school governors? Do they really contribute to the success of a school?
Richard Gold: They contribute to the success of a school in an intangible way. The involvement of people who are not professionally connected with the school is beneficial. The "critical friend" function is a very valuable one, and good head teachers and good senior leadership teams value that, because they have relatively disinterested but interested people that they can use as a sounding board. When you get down to the detail, unless you have got governors who have particular skills, no, they probably do not make a huge difference. As I said in my paper, my concern is that the weight of responsibility and the weight of the workload makes it difficult to recruit good quality governors and appropriate governors for their community in the areas where they are most needed, which are the areas of deprivation and the areas where schools are weak and struggle.
Fergal Roche: I am a chair of governors in something like the fourth most deprived ward in the country and I have found quite the opposite. It is in London, I should say, and therefore people might argue it is easier to recruit professionals because they are relatively nearby, but they all live pretty much locally. We have got a top lawyer; we have got a couple of really good educationists; and we have got one woman who is brilliant on HR and who actually went to the school.
Q6 Siobhain McDonagh: Would any of them like to go just down the road to Mitcham and Morden and come and be on some governing bodies there?
Fergal Roche: They are around. Firstly, I completely feel that there is a very strong role for boards in schools. There needs to be a bit of distance between the executive and the board. That is why in my evidence I have said I do not agree with staff being governors. I think there are weak arguments for that. There needs to be distance. The only person that bridges that gap should be the head or the principal. I used to be a head teacher under the old charity law, when I was not able to be on the governing body. The governors said, "That means you do not stand accountable in the way that we do", and they were frustrated that I could not stand up there. I do not think the head should be given the option to be a governor; they should be a governor. The governors, if they have got access to the right degree of information and guidance, which is not mediated through the head, are properly empowered and they can then hold the executive to account and set the strategic agenda. But they need that, and I think that is very hitandmiss at the moment.
Frank Newhofer: I certainly think all of us are particularly committed to doing as much as we can to improve the education for children in our schools. Governors have a very important part to play in that, from two perspectives: one is the stakeholder side of it and the other is the monitoring side. The stakeholder side is something of particular interest to me and something we really do have to hold on to, because it signifies the way in which our schools are held accountable to their local communities; it signifies how schools can be seen to be democratic institutions; and it signifies how there can be some common ownership of the values, ethos and curriculum of the school. It is vital, it seems to me, to include all those who have a legitimate voice in a school in that process. As I said in my submission, I do think the Taylor Committee got it right, albeit it might have been 35 years ago. That function of drawing people together-parents, local community representatives and staff-so that they have some ownership over what goes on in that school is a vitally important process in school.
Fergal Roche: Only if it works.
Frank Newhofer: I think there is good evidence that it does work. I am not saying there needs to be more done to ensure that there is wider and more appropriate representation in schools, but as a principle, it is a really important one to hold on to.
Emma Knights: We might be in danger of muddling up the need for an accountability model with doing it well. I would argue you absolutely have to have some form of accountability and holding schools to account-we could discuss at what level. If you look across this country, whether at the private sector, the public sector or the charitable sector, we all tend to have boards of some sort or other. Absolutely, yes, you do need those people holding school leaders to account, whether you call them governors or something else. Then there is the issue of how we do it well. We do know how we can do it well, but it is not always done well in every single governing body. That is the big thing we need to tackle: how we make sure that all governing bodies do it well.
Q7 Siobhain McDonagh: Is there a radical alternative to the current system of governance? How would you do it differently?
Emma Knights: Again, if you are asking whether we need a radically different model, I would say no. In fact, there are huge numbers of models out there and often people do not realise how many models they can use. There is now lots of flexibility, obviously within the academy sector but now increasingly, with the new changes, in the local authority maintained sector and with federations. I do not think there is enough talk about how we govern groups of schools, whether that is in multiacademy trusts or in local authority maintained federations. That is the real interesting discussion to be having: how we can do that well. That is almost quite radical in itself.
Frank Newhofer: I absolutely agree with Emma. I do not think we need radical alternatives; we need to do what we are already doing better than we are doing it. The two functions I referred to before, in terms of the stakeholder function and the monitoring function, need to be done better and I think there are issues to do with that, but I do not think we need a radically different alternative model.
Richard Gold: The multiacademy trust is one radical alternative that is working its way into the system.
Q8 Siobhain McDonagh: Emma, is there a shared view among governors of what the role of a governor is, or what good governance constitutes? Does the new Ofsted description of governance clarify this? What else is needed?
Emma Knights: Yes, at the high level, I think most governors understand in principle what they are there to do. The new Ofsted framework is incredibly helpful. I am very pleased that they have spelled out what they expect of us, because schools-and particularly school leaders-will listen to Ofsted. Whereas before it was little people like us saying, "Excuse me, governance is really rather important", now that Ofsted says it, it has made it important. The work that they are doing is getting to those governing bodies that some of the rest of us might not reach. But not every governing body understands how to govern well, and that is the mission I think we should all be on: to spread good practice.
Q9 Siobhain McDonagh: Frank, the DfE’s evidence refers to the additional responsibilities for some governing bodies as employers, admission authorities or charitable trustees and company directors. It says that these responsibilities "are aligned with, and in no sense contradict, the core functions" of governing bodies. Do you agree?
Frank Newhofer: I do. The important thing to hold on to here is, in a sense, what we referred to earlier on in terms of the important role of a chair of governors as a critical friend. Headship is very often a very lonely and difficult job. In the old days, local authority advisers used to be there as a sounding board for head teachers. Increasingly, it has become the role of the chair of governors to do that. That is an important role. It may be that partnerships can fulfil that function as well, and I am encouraged by the development of multiacademy trusts and by the movement towards federations, but realistically there are geographical and other sorts of considerations that may not make that possible all over the country. The partnership role of the chair of governors and the development of partnerships are really the important things to hold on to in terms of the additional responsibilities that governors now have.
Q10 Siobhain McDonagh: Emma, in your written evidence you refer to "a host of statutory responsibilities" and operational tasks that "should be removed from the governing body". Can you elaborate on this?
Emma Knights: Yes. We have had constant dialogue, as you might imagine, with the DfE over the last two years about this. They have gone a little way along this line by being helpful in terms of the latest list of policies that are expected at schoollevel by saying, "You can delegate these to the head teacher". A lot of them in law say the governing body, but in practice most of them we can delegate. However, not every governing body does delegate as much as perhaps we would like them to, and instead they clog up their meetings looking at policies in minutiae that are really about procedures and should be delegated to school leaders. Some of that perhaps is about practice. Richard mentioned the example of admissions. In schools that are their own admissions authority, governors themselves are supposed to do some of that operation. That is a nonsense. The DfE has accepted that is a nonsense, but annoyingly has not managed to get the regulations through Parliament to prevent us having to do that. Some of it is down to us delegating more and having the confidence in our school leaders and their teams to delegate more, but some we would like the Department to remove from regulations.
Richard Gold: One of the difficulties here is that, as Emma says, the legislation talks about the governing body’s responsibility, but that is because the governing body is the corporate entity of the school. If the terminology was different and we were talking about "the school must", it would be clearer to governors that there are many tasks that they can delegate. Governors sometimes-particularly in a weak governing body-are reluctant to delegate, because they feel that if they delegate, they are losing control but retaining responsibility. Individual governors feeling responsible for what goes on is often one of the contributing factors to difficulties that schools get themselves into because they intervene and meddle too much.
Q11 Mr Ward: The information that governing bodies receive is obviously crucial. As somebody who has been daunted myself by the information that is provided and feeling, however long I have been a governor, that I was very much a layman, is the right information provided to the governing bodies and do they have the capabilities to interpret it?
Fergal Roche: I should declare an interest here. I was a head teacher and five years ago set up a service to answer questions from school leaders, working with the TDA and the National College at the time to set that up. You have no information at all; you wait for questions to come in from school leaders around the country, you go and get the information and you give it to them and you publish it in a way that everybody else can read it. We were working with Manchester City Council and they said, "Governors need this". We said, "Well, they can use the stuff we have got for heads". They said, "No, no, no; it has got to be in a different format with different questions", so then we set up a similar service for school governors, where any school governor can ask a question, if their school buys them the membership. It is called Ten Governor Support; we have used Michael Bichard to help us set the thing up. For example, there was one question that came in that said, "We have got falling rolls but the standards have been getting better and better. Should we be giving the head a pay rise or not?" That is very difficult. You cannot ask the head, can you? At least you know what the answer will be. That is an example of a question that would not really fit into the other service. That has gradually got bigger and bigger.
Q12 Chair: So that is information morphing into advice.
Fergal Roche: It is not advice. We will not give consultancy; we will simply answer the question. We work alongside organisations like Emma’s. There is information and guidance out there, but I do not think there is enough of it and the market probably needs to provide that, rather than Government.
Frank Newhofer: This is a really important area, because it links into a number of other issues before your Committee. First of all, I think it needs to be said how important clerks are. A good clerk can really make a difference to the effectiveness of governing bodies in terms of the advice they provide and the way they help with agendas, minutetaking and so on. Good quality clerking services, in my view, are absolutely vital in terms of their development.
Q13 Chair: Who is most likely to provide that? I do not want to go off on too much of a tangent, but it is pretty important.
Frank Newhofer: At the moment, some local authorities-at least certainly the one I work in-do a fairly good job of making clerking services available on a purchasing basis to schools. There certainly is a qualityassurance need that somebody needs to fulfil to make sure that clerks are as good as possible. The information is one thing; training in how to use that information is something else. As Fergal said, it is the training that these organisations like the NGA and the local authority government support services give that is really vital for governing bodies. If you do not have that, what you tend to get is wheels being reinvented all over the place. People have great problems interpreting and making use of good benchmarking information.
The other point I want to make is it is really interesting at the moment to look at the success of the London Challenge. One of the markers for me of the evaluation that was done on the London Challenge is how important it was to have very contextspecific information channelled through into the school. It is the recognition that every school is different and every school has its own individual strengths and weaknesses; it is how you identify those, how you provide the requisite information and how you enable people to interpret that that makes the difference in the end.
Q14 Mr Ward: You are referring to the information going to the school. Richard, you have referred to this "hourglass" analogy, where the information may come in to the school but not necessarily get through to the governors.
Richard Gold: I was not thinking so much of the information coming in externally; I was thinking of the information that the school itself generates, which then gets passed down to the governors through the head teacher. That constriction can cause problems, because it is very difficult for a governing body to have methods of externally validating the information that they are providing. There is a huge amount of paper that comes in from the outside. I am a governor of a voluntaryaided school, so we do not in fact get a great deal of paper from the local authority, but one of my colleagues showed me the local authority briefing report for this term that she gets as a governor of a community school, and that is 25 pages, with a lot of references and further reading. The issue there is not so much the information coming to the governing body; it is how the governing body then manages that information.
Q15 Chair: Before you move on to that, can I pick you up on this information getting to the governing body? I have heard that the feedback from Ofsted on the individual teachers when they have come in and done an inspection is often not shared with governors, and that the head can say, "Well no, that was a briefing for me" and not pass that on to the governors.
Richard Gold: Correct.
Emma Knights: I think that is perhaps changing. HMCI has made it very clear that he wants governors reported back to, and we understand in practice at least the chair of governors is turning up to that endofinspection meeting. We would encourage more governors to do that. We did say to HMCI, "Please can you have them at six o’clock in the evening? It would be easier for us," and he said, "I may have a bit of a workforce issue if I take that back", but those sorts of discussions are going on. I agree with you that it is incredibly important that governors are there to hear what is said in a way that is not quite after the event. We are really, really keen on the whole issue of the right information going to governors at the right time, so they can prevent problems occurring. I completely agree with Frank that it is the clerk’s job to make sure not all those 22 pages go to the governing body. The trouble is that not all of the clerks are of the calibre to ensure that happens. Sometimes they are minuting secretaries. What we need is proper legal advisers, akin to company secretaries. In some places we have those and in others we do not. That would make governing bodies much more effective.
Q16 Chair: Would more effective clerking be one of your top three things to improve?
Emma Knights: Absolutely; it is. Indeed, we have our eight elements of effective governance, and clerking is in there, as well as chairing and better information to governing bodies. We are also doing quite a bit of work with the Department and others looking at what governing bodies get as part of the national stats.
Chair: I am sorry, Emma, I am going to have to cut you off, because we have so much to do and we have got no time to do it.
Frank Newhofer: Chair, we do know a lot about what actually works in terms of raising achievement, but we do not get that information through to governors so that they can make use of it. I think that is a crucial issue.
Q17 Neil Carmichael: As Emma knows, I am quite interested in this subject. Before I start on corporate governance, one of the interesting things is that when you see an IEB in place, you often see rapid improvement. Does that tell you something about the structure of governing bodies and the kinds of issues that we have about weakness versus competence and so on? What do you think about the use of IEBs being increased?
Emma Knights: I think where schools are failing, governance has failed. An organisation does not fail if its governance is effective.
Chair: For the sake of Hansard and anyone outside who is not familiar with these acronyms, what does IEB stand for?
Neil Carmichael: Interim executive board.
Emma Knights: It is interesting, in that it is an executive board. It is different from your pure governance; it is almost "governanceplus". That is the interim bit. There will come a point, one hopes, where that school has recovered and is providing a good education for its children, when it can go back to being simply governed rather than having an executive board.
Fergal Roche: The point underneath that is not the impact of the interim executive board itself; it is the accountability and the urgency with which it carries out its job. It is my opinion that every governing body in the country should be absolutely accountable and transparent. I like what the DfE said in their submission: transparency, accountability, financial probity and urgency are absolutely watchwords. I have got kids in one of the schools that I am governor of and I want to know that every teacher in that school is outstanding. That sounds a bit strange, I know, but that is what I want and I want it to happen yesterday. IEBs come in when disaster has struck, but wouldn’t it be fantastic if every school governing body had that urgency?
Q18 Neil Carmichael: The very reason I have asked that question ahead of the topic, which is corporate bodies versus governing bodies, is precisely the answer you have just given. That is a very helpful point, so thank you. The evidence is now stacking up. Is it therefore realistic for a governing body to expect to have all the skills it needs to have on it? I do not want to go down a numbersgame route; I just want to talk about the realism connected with skills.
Frank Newhofer: I am glad you raised the issue of reality, because that is a really crucial one for me. Let me ask you a question.
Chair: We will have questions going one way only, Frank. I like the anarchic element you bring, nonetheless, we have so little time and we need short, sharp answers.
Frank Newhofer: I do want to try to help us focus on the business of reality, because I think it is an important issue. There is a limit to how much you can expect a working person, in terms of their commitment to their school, to give. Skills are one issue, but it is the deployment of those skills and the time that it requires to understand the complexity of a school that I think is the real problem.
Q19 Neil Carmichael: I did spend 15 months almost as a fulltime chair of governors on a very complicated issue, so I am familiar with the point you are making.
Emma Knights: Nevertheless, the skills issue is important and I think for people who focus on this, there is the wherewithal to bring in skilled people. Again, as Fergus says, it is about the urgency. If chairs of governors understand that that is what they should be doing, they can make concerted efforts to do that. You are absolutely right: there are corporate boards; there are also charitable boards. That is the sector I work in and a lot of the same issues apply. In charities, we manage to recruit trustees and they find the time to govern us.
Q20 Neil Carmichael: This is an interesting issue, because it is the board of directors versus the governing body. Are we wanting very competent people, perhaps fewer of them, able to make strategic decisions with that sense of urgency, or are we saying we need somebody to help with the accounts, somebody to help with the building and maintenance, and so forth? Where on that scale do you place yourselves?
Fergal Roche: I think the latter is far more important-the skills-but if you can also make it a representative model and have your lawyer who is also a parent, or your accountant or your business person who also happens to be a local community leader or whatever, then that is fantastic. The 20 questions that your APPG produced, Neil, is a fantastic way of auditing what your skillsets are. You should, by going through those every year, say, "We are a bit weak in this area; we need to bring in an extra person in this particular area." That is a really useful model. What I do not agree with is mandatory training from particular organisations. It is like saying you cannot drive a car unless you have had 20 lessons. You ought to be able to drive a car if you can prove that you are safe and the rest of the world can be unhindered by your driving. I think there are several bits of evidence there that say, "It has got to be mandatory training". No, you have got to make sure you have got the right skills.
Chair: Emma is struggling to control herself.
Emma Knights: I am, because this is where we have got lots and lots of survey evidence that shows Fergal is very much in the minority as a governor. Nine out of 10 governors regularly say that this job is important enough to require training.
Fergal Roche: I did not say that people do not need training. I do not think it should be legislated for. You need to have the skills; how you get them will include training.
Emma Knights: But nine out of 10 governors support mandatory training. I really would like this to be taken seriously. One of the reasons why governance is not taken as seriously as board governance is because we are called "governors". We are not thought about as nonexec board members; we do not have the same expectations placed upon us when we are recruited that, for example, a magistrate would. I can send the Committee the little potted summary of what magistrates are expected to do before they are allowed on the bench.
Q21 Neil Carmichael: The question, though, is central to this whole inquiry, as far as I am concerned, because it is the quality of the governors and their capacity to react, to decide and to be strategic. The difficulty of the stakeholder model is simply this: if you have a parent who happens to be a lawyer, first of all, is that governor really speaking as a parent, or is he speaking as a lawyer? Even if he is speaking as a lawyer, what kind of law is he speaking about? That is the skills question that you have to really think about. Is it not better to simply have somebody who knows what a good lawyer should be doing, as opposed to having somebody talking from his own experience as a lawyer? That is the issue that needs to be teased out.
That brings me on to the size of governing bodies. There is a numbers game here; the Government has relaxed certain rules, but there are still expectations for governing bodies to be quite large and we know of governing bodies in excess of 20. Is that going to be a reactive, decisive body or not?
Richard Gold: You have got an awful lot of issues rolled up in here. The corporate model with the small governing body with significant skills, assuming that you can recruit-in some areas you will be able to recruit and in other areas you will not-is a good model, but it works right against the stakeholder idea. There was an interesting thought in the NAHT submission to you of a different model of bringing in community representation-some sort of advisory council-which I think is worth looking at further. Another problem that you have is that the structure is very, very rigid. Governors are on fixed terms of four years. It is very difficult to remove a governor who is unwilling to go. You may have a skills shortage on your governing body, but being able to replace someone is another issue entirely.
Q22 Neil Carmichael: That is linked, of course, to the stakeholder issue, is it not?
Richard Gold: Yes.
Neil Carmichael: Therefore, are you suggesting that the Government should be much more prescriptive about who should be on a governing body, or do you think it should be giving more powers to the governing body to deal with those problems?
Richard Gold: I think it should be left to individual schools. Only the school knows how it should be governed. There is an ethos issue very often around the school as well. The question comes down to resources. You were talking about IEBs, but an IEB is selected for its skills and there is power to pay an IEB. You cannot pay governors. I do not think you should be paying governors, but if you are looking at a corporate model with executive and nonexecutive directors, I think remuneration is reasonable, but that is going to need additional money, because you do not want to take that money out of the classroom.
Frank Newhofer: But the trick of effective governance still does seem to me to be to do with delegation. In my experience, the majority of effective governing bodies have good systems of delegation and good committees with clear terms of reference. To come back to your question, I cannot see how most governing bodies can function with much fewer than 12. That gives them the capacity to have three committees of about four people. Coming back to the reality question, given the time that people have, for me, that has always been a fairly reasonable way to proceed.
Emma Knights: Can I make a very quick point that people sometimes misunderstand? I would just remind the Committee than when a governor is governing-when they are around the table-they are all there in the same capacity, i.e. they are there to govern the school in the interests of the children; they are not there to represent a group. They are not there to represent parents or staff; they are simply bringing a different perspective to the discussion and we are all there for the children.
Fergal Roche: Could I just make the point that there is a basic relationship between whoever is funding a school to provide excellent education for the local young people and children? That should be the basic relationship. The funder says to the school, "Right, we want you to do this. Here is the money. Now you prove to us that you are doing that." In my submission I say every year there should be a complete account given, but the funder should not say, "And, by the way, you have got to have two parents and you have got to have two members of staff and you have got to have this and that". I agree with Richard; I think you just stay back from that and let the school decide.
Q23 Ian Mearns: I think, Emma, there was a shorthand for what you were just outlining in terms of governance responsibilities; we used to call them Nolan principles at one time, and we need to just remember that there is a fairly easily established set of principles by which people should act in a corporate body of that nature.
Emma Knights: Absolutely.
Ian Mearns: If it comes to paying governors backpay, I am in line for my 29 and a half years’ backpay as a governor. Are governors in converter academies clear as to what their role is? Richard, you have called for statutory guidance on the division of functions in academies. Do others agree?
Emma Knights: I am glad you have raised academies again, because I was being concise when Siobhain asked me whether governors understand their responsibilities. I think there was quite a bit of confusion in converter academies; people did not properly do their homework as to what those changes were going to be. One would have hoped that their legal representatives explained what being a director of a company and a trustee of a charity meant, but sadly, we are getting very, very basic questions from people who should know better; they have already been governing, supposedly, for a year and a bit.
Q24 Ian Mearns: Are they experts who have not been trained? Is that what it is?
Emma Knights: Absolutely. Thank you for that. They have not. If they had been trained as they took up their posts, they might have understood their responsibilities.
Q25 Ian Mearns: Richard, did you want to say something?
Richard Gold: It is an issue for some but not for others. Foundation and voluntaryaided schools are already charities and the only additional responsibility that converters have is as company directors. I think it is important that governors understand that, but it is also important that the added responsibilities are not overstressed, because they will get out of proportion to the real issue. Where the problem comes is with community schools that convert, where I think there is a very steep learning curve. It is not just for the governors in terms of their responsibilities; it is the school itself in terms of what it is taking on and what it means to break the umbilical cord with the local authority.
Q26 Ian Mearns: The DfE intends to consult on proposals to repeal terms of reference regulations for maintained schools to give them similar freedoms to academies. Are you concerned that the role of governors may become less clear as a result?
Richard Gold: Can I come in on that? I saw that and I feel very, very strongly about it. The terms of reference regulations were the best thing since sliced bread as far as governing bodies were concerned, because they defined what the governing body was there for and they defined what the head teacher was there for. Maintaining that focus on the strategic function for governors and having it laid down as a requirement is critical.
Q27 Chair: Does anyone disagree with that?
Emma Knights: We have been involved, as a number of organisations have, in this process and it is not going to fundamentally change. It is about a rewriting of the regulations-a sharpening of them. I would say in a way it is peripheral; it will not make much difference to what we do in practice.
Q28 Ian Mearns: In terms of where the world is going and the way things are lying, do you think the Government should encourage more federated structures of governance for maintained schools?
Chair: Emma is a yes. Does anyone think that is a bad idea?
Richard Gold: It depends on the school. One of the problems about federation-you see it with multiacademy trusts-is the loss of individual autonomy for the school. There have to be choices to be made there.
Q29 Chair: Is that more applicable in primary than secondary? One always makes these generic remarks and then always has to remember the different phases.
Emma Knights: Yes.
Richard Gold: Yes.
Frank Newhofer: And different in rural areas.
Emma Knights: Yes, and particularly for smaller schools. What the sector and the Department are not putting enough focus on is what a sensible unit is, not just to govern but to lead as well. Do we have enough excellent school leaders to be leading every single tiny school that we have in the country? That should be the debate we are having.
Frank Newhofer: There are more advantages for teachers in federations, I would argue, than for governors in terms of learning from good practice.
Fergal Roche: I completely agree with all that. I found out yesterday that 70% of the schools in Somerset have their heads about to retire. Trying to recruit into that must be horrendous.
Ian Mearns: It does strike me, though, that with the school structures that we have at the moment, we need something like a third of a million governors to staff it all up. That is a lot of people.
Q30 Craig Whittaker: I know Emma said earlier that she welcomes Ofsted’s new focus on governance; I think what you said is that it spells out clearly what is expected. Is there anybody who feels differently from that?
Richard Gold: I think it is right that Ofsted should focus on governance. I am just concerned about their ability to judge it in individual cases. I am not sure about their approach to governance. I noticed one thing in the Ofsted submission talking about effective governing bodies being driven by a small number of key members. That was being put forward as a strength; I actually think that is a weakness. I would invite Ofsted to do some rethinking on that area.
Frank Newhofer: I would agree with that. It is very difficult for Ofsted to make a constructive, valid judgment based on the evidence they are currently getting from schools, which tends to be, certainly in my experience, little more than a brief conversation with the chair and a scrutiny of some minutes. I do not see how that provides sufficient evidence to make a reasonable judgment. The assumption still is that a failing school must have a failing governing body and a successful school must have a good one. I am not sure about that.
Q31 Craig Whittaker: Even though Emma says it gives the governing body a very clear view on what is required?
Frank Newhofer: The criteria are okay; it is how you get the evidence for whether the criteria are functioning.
Emma Knights: There is an issue about consistency of inspection and certainly inspections led by HMIs always seem to go down better than those led by other inspectors.
Q32 Craig Whittaker: Do you have any evidence for that? We have heard this a couple of times but nobody has ever brought any pure evidence to say that is the case.
Emma Knights: Not quantitative; it is all anecdotal evidence.
Q33 Craig Whittaker: Is it actual hard evidence to say that is the case?
Emma Knights: Yes, they are reports from our members to us about how their inspections went, and we do not tend to get complaints when HMIs lead inspections. The sheer fact that the criteria are spelt out in the questions makes them really good questions. In the old days, a head could brief their governing body to go in and give the marketing spiel about the school. You cannot do that anymore, because the inspector is saying, "Do you know the strengths and weaknesses of the school?" If you say, "It is all marvellous and our teachers and our teaching are terrific" and they have just gone and seen a whole bunch of lessons that were not, they are immediately going to think, "Ah, these governors do not really know what they are talking about".
Fergal Roche: I have some issues with that. Were Ofsted to come to our school in Lambeth and have interviews with, say, a couple of the assistant heads, the assistant heads would talk about the fact that a governor had done a learning walk with them to check whether they were actually putting in place the corridor behaviour system they said they were going to do, and they would make various references to governors checking that what was in the development plan was actually happening. That would send a message to Ofsted that there is a strong accountability framework in the school and that it is being monitored carefully by the governors, ergo you have got decent governors.
Q34 Craig Whittaker: Can I just ask you, then, Fergal: do you think it is fair that volunteers are put under so much scrutiny by Ofsted?
Fergal Roche: That is playing to whether we believe governors have to move away from this "worthy amateur" status to actually having to stand up and take the rap along with the head if things are getting tough, or take the credit when they are going well. In my evidence, I said that the governors have to be very transparently the governors-or directors; whatever they get called-and stand up alongside the head and be seen.
Q35 Chair: Does that work when you have a governor who is unpaid and a head in London on £190,000 standing beside you, so there you are, working every hour God gives to support the school, and the person beside you is on £190,000 a year?
Fergal Roche: It is a good point, but you have to bear in mind where the economy is. I said in my submission that I think there should be some sort of stipend for chairs and chairs of committees, but I suppose the only reason I put that in is because I want the chairs of governors and chairs of committees to have to recognise that you are being paid by the Treasury, effectively, to do this role.
Emma Knights: There is a whole sector in this country where that happens: trustees. Sure, trustees do not have Ofsted knocking on their door, but trustees have to be accountable and carry the can. If governors are made aware of that at the beginning-if they volunteer on that basis-they are volunteering to do that.
Q36 Craig Whittaker: How best can governing bodies judge their own effectiveness and identify areas for improvement? I know, Frank, you mentioned earlier having one or two governors that led the pack.
Frank Newhofer: There are very good selfevaluation tools around. The National Governors’ Association produces one; various organisations do. It is certainly part and parcel of the annual regime of a good governing body to engage in such selfevaluation and there are good systems and processes around for doing that.
Q37 Craig Whittaker: In terms of governing bodies’ responsibility for financial management and ensuring value for money, are local authority accountability mechanisms comparable with the DfE’s mechanisms, particularly for academies?
Emma Knights: They are different, but that is one of the things about becoming an academy; you are opting into a different financial regime with different financial reporting mechanisms, so they should not be the same. In a way, the whole issue of more autonomy, as you have in the academy sector, by definition means more risk and it therefore means you absolutely need better governors. Right across the piece we should have effective governance, but it is even more critical in academies. We should not be expecting the same financial reporting in the two systems, because they are slightly different systems.
Q38 Craig Whittaker: Are there any different views on that? No. How can governing bodies be made more accountable to the communities that they serve in terms of financial management?
Chair: And should they be?
Emma Knights: In terms of financial management? I would almost say it is the other things that communities want to know more about. That is not to say that financial probity is not important.
Craig Whittaker: It is taxpayers’ money they are dealing with. Whoever it comes from, it is still their money.
Fergal Roche: They should report to the parent body every year on how they have used resources to the benefit of their children. That is it. Children are in a school to be educated. What does that mean? We have got to get them the results; we have got to make sure their welfare is improved and they are confident young people going out to society. Then we as a governing body should account to the funder and the stakeholders in the way that a company has to report to its stakeholders every year on its basic remit.
Frank Newhofer: They are certainly required to do that for the pupil premium, for local authority audit purposes and for all sorts of things.
Q39 Chris Skidmore: Craig has just touched upon academies and the freedoms they have over their governing bodies. There are moves within the Department to review the academy articles to increase freedoms further. Would you support that? Do you have any comments on the freedoms that academies have?
Fergal Roche: Amazingly, we find that academies are not using the freedoms that they have got in anything like the way the Government has expected. I think Michael Gove would be appalled in many ways. What we find is that they are using the financial freedoms, but in terms of changing the school day and the curriculum, it is just not happening. I would not comment on that, but I just do not think those freedoms are being used. Rather than trying to extend those freedoms, what the Government has first got to do is try to get people to understand that becoming an academy is about standing on your own two feet, being independent, being local, recognising what is happening locally and exercising those freedoms. At the moment, that is not happening.
Frank Newhofer: I have to say I think all that is terribly overstated. The difference in freedoms for academies and maintained community schools is marginal. Maintained community schools do not often recognise the freedoms that they have got. Let us get back to standards, not structures; that was the right rhetoric to have.
Q40 Chris Skidmore: The Government is also looking at increasing freedoms further for maintained schools, with the possible repeal of the terms of reference regulations and the rewriting of the 260page Governors’ Guide to the Law. Do you think that schools would benefit from that greater freedom, given the point that you made that they are probably not even taking up the freedoms they currently have? Do you think it is a wise decision to deregulate some of the documentation that is involved with governing bodies?
Emma Knights: We have lots of discussions with them about the fact that deregulation does not necessarily mean no guidance. I am not saying every single page of guidance is valuable, but, if you are trying to reduce the work and the unnecessary bureaucracy for schools, which we all are, there comes a point where you do not want 24,000 school leaders Googling to find the answer to something that previously was in a piece of guidance. That has to be done issuebyissue and I think too much emphasis has been put on that, rather than on improving practice.
Richard Gold: Using the freedoms is a matter of culture for the individual school. With the converter academies, I think it is too early to see this, because generally, schools that convert want to do it with an easy ride and the easiest ride is to say, "At least at the moment, we are not going to change things". Over a period of time, I think the schools will start looking at what they can do, looking at alternative models, consulting with their communities and taking advantage of the freedoms. But I also agree that the freedoms are, to a large extent, peripheral and that a really determined head teacher of any category of school will be able to run the school in the way he or she wants.
Q41 Chris Skidmore: Going back to academies, Richard, in your written evidence, you stated that you "have encountered governors appointed by the [academy’s] sponsor or sponsors who appear not to have great enthusiasm for the task. Governor appointments can be made from within the sponsor organisation and people serve from their own career motive rather than with the interests of the academy at heart." Do you think academies can be as accountable as other schools if the governors are being appointed or nominated by the academy sponsors? That does not really strike me as proper accountability.
Richard Gold: I think they can be accountable. There is a big responsibility on the sponsor in making the appointment. I saw that problem in a limited number of sponsored academies, and it was usually where the sponsor was a local employer and they were bringing their own people on to the governing body, in order to drive through the particular vision that the sponsor had. The individuals who went there were not necessarily motivated by the interests of the school; they were looking at enhancing themselves through their willingness to take on the task.
Q42 Chair: Is that necessarily and always a bad thing?
Richard Gold: It depends on where the balance lies. It depends on how good they are at doing what they do.
Q43 Chair: Going back to our skills discussion earlier, is there a greater role for corporate social responsibility in a company? Talking about having accountants and lawyers coming on, is there room to develop corporate social responsibility programmes in all the big accountancy and legal firms and maximise the number of professions who make themselves available? They may be doing it because they are careeroriented and they want to get to the top and it is required, but if they bring the skills and they do the work and they put in the time, does that matter if you have got the right balance and you make sure you do representation as well?
Fergal Roche: The academy sponsor has an agreement with the Secretary of State to make sure that the poor standards are turned around, and they have to account for that. They should not be handcuffed in the way they do that. I hope that there would not be this cosy "jobs for the boys" approach, but on the other hand, my first concern as a parent of a child in one of those is: "Are you getting my child to a better place than would have been the case before?" That is my main concern.
Frank Newhofer: It is important to try to get more and more employers to give paid time off to their employees who wish to be governors, so that there is more time available, certainly during the day, for people to fulfil that function if they wish to. The argument about skills in relation to accountancy and the law is grossly overstated. The real skills issue and unfortunate deficit is in understanding the complexity of the data about pupil attainment and achievement in schools. That is the challenge. Those are the skills that need to be upgraded and those are the sorts of skills we need to recruit more people with to governors’ roles.
Emma Knights: Absolutely, but some of them may be in employment and some companies are very good at encouraging their employees, but sadly that is a minority. If I can very briefly go back to your point about academies and how governance works, both in sponsored academies and other multiacademies, there is a lot of confusion because people are using the word "governors" to represent different levels. You have got your directors of the company up here and some people are calling them governors; then you also have, in most structures, local governing bodies or advisory councils with slightly different powers, depending on what has been delegated, and in some cases those are called governors. It is really unhelpful, because those layers have very different roles legally, but also, in different setups, sponsors delegate more to the local governing body. In some cases, there is very little delegated down and they are more or less advisory or stakeholdertype bodies; in other cases they are doing exactly what you would expect a governing body to do. I even notice in DfE material they do not properly distinguish between those roles, so clarity and real, good terms of reference, so that everybody knows what they should do, is crucial.
Q44 Chair: Could you give us examples of people at either end of that spectrum?
Emma Knights: In terms of different chains? Some chains give more autonomy.
Chair: I am asking who they are.
Fergal Roche: United Learning give loads of autonomy to their schools, whereas ARK would give less and Harris would give less as well.
Q45 Craig Whittaker: Briefly, in terms of underperforming or failing governing bodies, do you think the current arrangements, where you can have the interim executive board coming in or a maintained school’s budget can be suspended by the local authority, have enough teeth to deal with the problem, or is there a problem of detecting failing governing bodies and getting to the problem early, before it becomes too severe?
Emma Knights: There are certainly mechanisms for dealing with them. Whether they have been used quickly enough in the past is debateable and we would agree with Ofsted that in a number of cases they have not been used when they should have been. There is a slight issue now, with local authority services being pared back, about whether they will have the intelligence that they had in the past; it may make things slower rather than more speedy.
Frank Newhofer: I am not sure about the evidence on IEBs, I have to say. I think what really tends to happen in schools is that the head teacher is replaced at the same time as the IEB, and it is that that makes the difference.
Chair: I am afraid we have run out of time. Thank you all very much indeed for giving evidence this morning.
Examination of Witnesses
Witnesses: Neil Calvert, Head Teacher, Long Eaton School, Derbyshire, Chris Hill, Head Teacher, Hounslow Town Primary School, Mike Cladingbowl, Director, Schools, Ofsted, and Professor Chris James, Professor of Educational Leadership and Management, Department of Education, University of Bath, gave evidence.
Q46 Chair: Good morning and welcome to this session. I think most of you probably heard most of the evidence in the last session. What I did not explain to that panel but probably should have done is what we do. We conduct our inquiries; we then write our reports; we make recommendations to Government and they are obliged to respond, supposedly within two months. The business end of what we do is the recommendations to Government, so if you have any specific changes that you think central Government could make to the framework in which school governance operates, please make sure that you make that clear and explicit to us today and give us the arguments as to why we would want to include that in our report. Given the subject of today’s meeting, what is your No. 1 point that you came here to make?
Professor James: I came to make several, let’s be clear.
Chair: I am asking for one.
Professor James: Raise the profile. That needs to come in two directions: from central Government and from all those involved in the system.
Q47 Chair: What does that look like in terms of central Government?
Professor James: Appreciating what governors do. Why not?
Q48 Chair: It is hard to legislate for that.
Professor James: I know. It is a practice issue and it is a cultural issue. But when a school gets an "outstanding", why does somebody from central Government, especially if it is an academy, not write to the chair and say, "Thank you", so it gets known? We need to see more governors in honours lists. There is a whole set of cultural things. Then, as far as profile is concerned, it needs to be done at the other end, in the school. As part of what Ofsted inspects, they would expect to see somewhere on the school’s website a list of who the governors are and who the chair is. Can I do one more?
Chair: No. Thank you very much. We will have time to come back. Neil?
Neil Calvert: Again, I have several, but if you are asking for one, it is about a recognition of the time that is required to be put in by governors to discharge their responsibilities effectively. In the first set of evidence that you heard, there was an unspoken assumption that a lot of that time was in evening meetings of the governing body, sat around a table. There perhaps was not sufficient recognition that a school is a place often with more than 1,000 children, and in order for governors to understand the best way that those children can be educated, they need not just to sit around that table and take that time, but also find effective ways to be part of the operation of the school. That takes time and commitment.
Q49 Chair: Again, though, I am trying to work out, a bit like for raising the profile-we got some specifics in the end-what form that recognition would take.
Neil Calvert: In an understanding, perhaps, of how the role needs to be developed, particularly of the chair. I recently advised the governing body of another academy that was appointing a head teacher-the biggest job a governing body ever has to do-and at some point during the process, the chair pointed out to me that he was taking two days of annual leave in order to oversee this process. That is a huge expectation for somebody with quite a senior role in the public sector.
Q50 Chair: What needs to change as a result? Most people would recognise that the chair of governors of a secondary school-and, indeed, a primary school-spends quite a lot of time fulfilling that role. Is there something that we need to change?
Neil Calvert: It is to do with recruitment. It comes back to this point about recruiting effective governors, and particularly effective chairs. You have already heard evidence about there needing to be more commitment by employers to give paid time off; there is an expectation in employment law that they will give time off. It is not quite the same thing as entitling somebody to do two days of very significant work.
Q51 Chair: So you would like a legal entitlement?
Neil Calvert: A duty on employers, yes.
Chris Hill: The main thing I would be looking for is ways of improving the capacity generally of governing bodies. There is a great variance between what one governing body in one school may be able to achieve and what another one could do. As in some of the discussions I heard earlier, there are all sorts of ways, but some of that is by improved training and giving people time, but also by being clearer and getting the right people. There is a balance between having stakeholders and your expert people on there, and trying to get more constancy. I think what was being said was, where it is good, the system works well at the moment, but it is a matter of luck as to which governors actually end up on your governing body at a particular time and their capacity.
Q52 Chair: How would you like to change that?
Chris Hill: For the chair, I think there is probably a need for mandatory training so that they fully understand their role.
Q53 Chair: That is already happening; the Government has brought that in, has it not?
Chris Hill: Yes. They really do need to be welltrained, and governing bodies need to understand more fully in some schools the need for succession planning and preparing. Sometimes it is still the case that when a new chair of governors is needed, people look round the table and see who will volunteer, without fully understanding. That is the danger: that the quality of a governing body could dip quite quickly. You have to ensure that there is an ongoing capacity for improvement.
Q54 Chair: What needs to change? What recommendations could we make for changes to the framework? What is it that we need to change that will make it more likely that we will have greater consistency between governing bodies?
Chris Hill: It is difficult in that there needs to be a balance around making too many things mandatory, but it is making it possible for good people to become governors and encouraging businesses to release them for that time. All those structures need to be improved, because one of the pressures at the moment for many people-particularly in this economic climate-is that if you have got a job, you are working harder than you were previously and so doing something voluntary is perhaps the thing that is going to go first. It is enabling people to have the time to do the job properly.
Chair: Thank you. Mike?
Mike Cladingbowl: Too many schools are not good enough. That is our starting position and our perspective. We know that governance is most likely to be weak where schools are not good. It is also true to say, from our evidence, that schools struggle to recruit the right governors in areas where they are most likely not to be good. We have got a big and an urgent national problem here, so I am very pleased to be able to be here today and to contribute our evidence. We think we need some radical improvement and radical change, but we need it in two ways. The first and the urgent thing to get on with is making sure that we take all the existing systems and structures and make them better than they are now, while at the same time considering other, longerterm structural changes. We are involved, as you know, in stepping up our inspection of governance and have been doing so since September. We are also stepping up our involvement with those schools that are not yet good and taking a direct interest in the quality of governance and the engagement of governors in those schools. We are also going to be doing more to support them in getting simple, straightforward and easytounderstand data by issuing later next month a new dashboard, which we think will help.
Q55 Chair: Has there been an issue in the past-we touched on it in the last session-about the feedback on individual teacher performance as seen by an Ofsted inspector not making it through the head to the governors? Is that true? Is it changing? Do we need to do any more to ensure that it changes?
Mike Cladingbowl: It is certainly true that not all head teachers will have been as clear with governing bodies as they need to be about the weaknesses in teaching generally across the school following an inspection. I will give you an example. Since September, with the new "requires improvement" grade and the fact that we are sending HMIs into these schools four to six weeks after the inspection that judges the school to be the old grade 3 "satisfactory" or the new "requires improvement", we have noticed in the minutes of governing body meetings and when we talk to governors-many, many more than we did previously-they are saying to us, "We understand now that this is an issue. We know now that ‘requires improvement’ is not good enough and we need to do something about it". We never would have found that to that degree when we had "satisfactory" schools before September, because heads would have said to governors, "Well, we got ‘satisfactory’. There are one or two things to work on, but it is okay". There was not the kind of close attention being paid that there is increasingly now. More attention needs to be paid so that governors are saying to head teachers, "Where are the weaker departments? Where are the weaker teachers? Where are your strong points? What are you doing to make sure that each child in this school is making the progress of which he or she is capable, regardless of their background and their starting point?" It is right that we are working together with the National Governors’ Association and others to up the stakes here. It has simply not been good enough and it is time we did something about it.
Chair: I think I should cut you off, Mike, because I would not allow anyone else to go through their full shopping list. I am not going to allow you to do it just because you are so fluent and passionate.
Q56 Ian Mearns: Mike, as you have raised it, how many HMIs are governors? Do you know?
Mike Cladingbowl: At the moment none of the HMIs with a school background-like me, for example; I was a secondary school head teacher before I became an HMI-are governors.
Q57 Ian Mearns: Is there anything precluding HMIs from being governors?
Mike Cladingbowl: Our view has been hitherto that it would present us with a conflict of interest.
Q58 Mr Ward: I will start with a hobby horse, being self-indulgent. There will be questions later on stakeholders. It may be apocryphal, but someone allegedly once asked Ken Morrison, "What do you do for your local community?" as he refused to give some boxes of crisps for a local gala and he said, "I create jobs". Emma was referring to doing it well and I want to talk about the "it". As I say, we will talk about stakeholders later, but more and more teachers, in innercity schools in particular, do not live in the area that the school is in. Rather than raising attainment-and we know all of those things-it is about the idea of a school being a community asset and part of a community. The broad question was: do we need school governors? Do we need a broad range of school governors who have an input from the community?
Professor James: Unequivocally yes. I think you just need to consider the central importance of schools to communities. If a school is going well, the community tends to be happier; if the school is not going well, then it chafes and is not comfortable with itself. Absolutely, every local school should have a local governing body, and I think, if we raise the profile and create energy in the system, make the chair responsible for the functioning of the governing body-which is the other key point I want to make here-so we have some serious accountability, and enhance Ofsted inspection, I think we will have good, local governing bodies, we will have stakeholder governance and we will have the right skills round the table. Yes, a local governing body, made up of stakeholders, representative of important local community groups who have the skills and govern properly.
Q59 Mr Ward: We are coming back for a separate session on this; I got in now, so I have done my bit. I will go back on message now. According to Ofsted, radical changes are required to the current model of governance. What are these changes?
Mike Cladingbowl: There are two things. I spoke about one already, so I am not going to revisit that territory, but to summarise it for the record, it is making radical improvements in the quality of governance as it stands. That is the first thing. That means taking advantage of the current freedoms and flexibilities; it means taking advantage of all of those who are out there providing high-quality training. It also means that governing bodies and chairs of governing bodies need to take a long, hard look at themselves and ask themselves a question. It is one thing to say, "I am going to be training what it is that governing bodies are supposed to do"; that is fine. It is quite another thing then to make sure that you have got access to the relevant information you need to do the third thing, which is the most important thing of all, and that is to have the confidence, the spirit and the determination to challenge the head, the school and the other governors and to say, "Is this good enough for the children in our community?" I did not come here today to bash heads; I was a secondary head, too. There were days when I benefited greatly from having a sympathetic and knowledgeable chair of governors, but there were days too, frankly, when I yearned for a bit more challenge, and that needs to happen.
Within all of that, we need to make sure that governing bodies, whether they are representative or not, are not representational. That is an important difference. But the focus must not be on whether the governing body is broadly representative, involves stakeholders and is a means of building a community and placing a school at the centre of that community. Surely the key thing for governors is to fulfil their prime purposes: one around the general conduct of the school and making sure that is good; and secondly, to promote high achievement in schools. That has got to be the core focus of the governing body. Particularly in those schools that are, sadly, not doing well enough yet, that is the focus that those governing bodies need to have. What that means, in effect, is that it is possible-and our evidence tells us this-to have a small number of governors who really know what they are doing and who are not being driven by vested interests but by the need for all children in the school to do well, to be the drivers, the shakers and the movers in that governing body and to make a difference. You do not need large numbers; you just need those key people. That is a separate thing from saying, "We do not need to have stakeholder involvement in a school". There are different ways of doing that, including through the governing body-there are many others.
Neil Calvert: To respond to Mike’s point, I am not convinced that is radical change. I think that is expecting governing bodies to do the job they are supposed to do now and to do it well. That would not be my definition of radical change, while I do not disagree with what you have said. I would also like to pick up on the point about a small number of governors. It also comes back to the question you asked a few minutes ago about community involvement and stakeholders. It is possible for a governing body not to necessarily be rooted in the community, with everybody living within the catchment area, but still to be close to the community through governors being involved with the daytoday events that I alluded to earlier-things like being part of panels reviewing fixedterm exclusions and attendance panels, and being part of various different activities in the school. That is hard if they are not from within the community and there is only a small number of them. That is why I am wary of a model where there is a small number and they are not stakeholders.
Mike Cladingbowl: I made the point, I hope, that we needed two radical changes. One is about a radical improvement in the quality of governance using our existing structures, which is the first point. The second is that I do think it is right that we take a look now at different structures and being more creative and making more use of the opportunities that are out there. You could, for example, ensure that expertise in one governing body is quite deliberately and directly-whether it is remunerated or not-shared with another; an advanced skills governor, for example. You could, as the Committee will have heard through previous evidence, have a smaller group of governors looking after a large group of schools, either through a federation of schools or, indeed, a federation of governors. There are a whole range of different structures and possibilities out there and I think it is right we look at them.
Professor James: I would like to agree with Neil. What we are hearing there is what many good governing bodies do already. They work with a core group with the head teacher, and they bring in a wider range of people who are representative of communities-they do not represent different parts of the community.
Q60 Chair: What about the ones who do not? The problem in the system is not those who are getting it right; it is those who are not. How do we take a limited number of people with real expertise and skill and share and spread that to ensure that we have high standards-we will never have them everywhere-in more places than we have them now?
Professor James: There are two very specific ways we can do that, Chair. Firstly, by making it absolutely clear-and it is not clear, as far as I can find-that the chair of the governing body is responsible for the functioning of the governing body. I do not think that is in regulations; I do not think that is in statute. I think it would send a very clear message if that was. Then we need to inspect school governing much more thoroughly. I look at the handbook and governing is in a long list of any other business, as far as what inspectors may look at. I do not think that is good enough. If I were the Secretary of State and had delegated responsibility for the conduct of schools to governing bodies, I would want to know, first and foremost in an inspection, whether that group that I had delegated it to was doing its job. If they are not, it is very, very hard for the school to do a very good job. I do not think we have got that in the right order yet.
Q61 Mr Ward: This is an old question that we know about, really. We all want an excellent governing body and an excellent head teacher, but where is the balance between excellent head teacher but poor governing body, and excellent governing body but poor head teacher, in terms of the most important aspect of running a school?
Professor James: Excellent governing body and excellent head teacher.
Mr Ward: Yes, I know that.
Professor James: I am sorry; there is no other way. The system works with the other models, but there is no doubt the research we are just writing up shows that good governing bodies warrant good head teachers and vice versa.
Q62 Chair: You have said we should give the chair the responsibility for the effectiveness of the governing body and make that explicit rather than implicit. Are you sure that is going to make a difference? I would have thought most people think that that was the case anyway.
Professor James: They do, and, of course, most very good chairs think that. But if the governing body is not working, who do you look to?
Q63 Chair: No, but that is what we are examining here; we are trying to look at ways of challenging those where it is not happening and getting high quality to be more common.
Professor James: Chair, my point here is that if you do make that explicit in the regulations, it sends a signal. Someone somewhere has got to take responsibility for the effective functioning of the governing body.
Mike Cladingbowl: As you all know, in September 2012 we changed substantially our inspection framework and the way we inspect and report on governance, which is now, I think, fuller than it has ever been. In terms of the evidence that Ofsted has got from before September 2012, when we made separate judgments-on the one hand of the leadership and management of the head and the senior staff and whatnot, and on the other hand of the governance-generally we were judging the quality of leadership by the head and the rest of the senior team to be good or better in about six out of 10 inspections. Governance was below that. That does not surprise me. I do not know if it surprises other colleagues here, but that was my experience as a head and certainly my experience in the hundreds of schools I have visited as an HMI.
In answer to your question, there is something about making sure you have got the right combination in a particular school. Again, it is possible in a good school, frankly, for the governing body not to challenge the head particularly and for things to go on much as they always have done, although there are big risks in that because we know that onethird of schools that are "satisfactory" were once "good". There are real risks there about keeping people sharp and honest. But in the 6,000 schools that are not yet "good" and that are providing a mediocre education for children, you absolutely need to have a tough, independentminded and competent chair of governors to challenge head teachers and/or to support new head teachers, where those head teachers have not yet got their school to "good".
Q64 Pat Glass: The NGA have told us that there has been a reduction in local authority support teams supporting governors and that there are concerns that the schooltoschool support has not developed in the way that we would have hoped to fill those gaps. Is there a vacuum being created in support and training for governors? Do sufficient head teachers and governors know their roles? Is there a way that we can do this better?
Chris Hill: I think that something more national needs to be done, because now, there is much variance between what is happening in different local authorities; that is why you will start getting a very mixed picture. There needs to be some way of making sure there is a more consistent approach nationally. I think there would be greater support, greater training and more consistent training. I would imagine that it is unlikely that, if you have got an ineffective chair of governors, you have got a good governing body. That is paramount. There are a lot of other issues then on the mixture of governors and the expertise that you need on the governing body, but the advice is variable; the quality of training in different local authorities is changing noticeably now. There are some who will still be providing excellent provision; there are others who are not. I do not think it is clear enough in the marketplace for all governors to know where exactly they would need to go to get the sort of training that they would necessarily need.
Neil Calvert: The question about schooltoschool support is quite an interesting one, because it tends to happen with the strong and the weak; that tends to be when, for one reason or another, schooltoschool support comes into play. There is a danger at the moment with less advice from local authorities that "good" and "outstanding" schools in particular, especially with the inspection regime being such that it may be quite a while until they next get inspected, are at risk of not necessarily having that level of challenge for the governing body. Certainly my own school is looking to put in place an informal arrangement with the governing body of another similar kind of school to have some kind of peer review and exchange of governors. There is a need for that, because there is the possibility that those schools may only get picked up in terms of weaker governance at a point when, for example, there is a risk assessment by Ofsted. That does not pick up weak governance; it picks up the effects of weak governance a year or two down the line when standards start to dip or complaints come in, and young people have already been affected. There is a need for that, yes.
Professor James: There is a huge amount of variation out there in local authority provision of training, governing bodies’ requirements for training, and the expertise they already have. We are, of course, in a fluid system where things are changing.
Q65 Chair: Are they changing for the better or for the worse in that particular respect?
Professor James: I would say the jury is still out on that one. What we should do-again, it comes back to Ofsted-is inspect the governing body more thoroughly and say, "What training have you done? I see you have not done any. Why is that?" I think that goes with things like compulsory induction and compulsory chairs’ training. It is great to say we are going to do that, but it runs at odds with the idea of autonomy, independence, governing and organising yourselves, which is, I think, hugely important and something we should encourage. We need to say, "It is thought that this is a good idea, but you have been chair; you came to the role after only a year as a governor"-which happens; I have got case examples of that-"why did you not do any training as chair?" We should set out what we think is required in Ofsted requirements and then that will frame what governing bodies do. That is a very simple, straightforward way of improving the quality of governing.
Q66 Pat Glass: Mike, these seem to be huge steps. Ofsted has got to find that there is a problem and then there is a vacuum: where do they go to secure support? Do you see Ofsted’s role as central to that?
Mike Cladingbowl: It is certainly our role to go and inspect and to follow up where we find weaknesses. We also believe it is our role, and have begun since 1 January, to put in place an organisation that is much closer to the ground and much nearer to schools. From next month, we will be running a series of workshops, seminars and goodpractice conferences, which are things we have not done for some time, where HMI will work with schools and others in order to share our best practice so that we can do all we can to support as well as challenge the system. We know we need to step up to do that, as we are challenging others to do, and to work alongside them with that.
I agree with the points Neil made, and indeed with my other colleague, with one caveat. That is that HMI and additional inspectors have, since September, when they go into schools been asking governors those questions: "What kind of training are you having? What kind of quality is it? What impact is it having? How is it helping you hold the school to account?" and so on. It is absolutely right that we do that and we are beginning to do it. Otherwise, I agree with you that there is a problem between the increasing autonomy that the schools are getting and the diversity of practice and structures and so on that are out there now. I think heads generally are welcoming that very much and we are certainly recognising that in what we do. Regarding the notion of central training for all governors, governing bodies are very different. They organise themselves in different ways; they have different kinds of accountability depending on the system and the structures. To have a central single training for them would be problematic. The accountability bit is the important bit; how you get at that is through a combination of inspection and through organisational structures.
Q67 Pat Glass: The NAHT tell us that disputes between head teachers and governors are on the increase. Is that linked to the lack of clarity about roles? Is it more acute in academies?
Professor James: Those kinds of dispute come with the territory of governing bodies and head teachers. It is that kind of relationship. We do not want them, but it can be part of it. We need to recognise that. The governing body formally delegates the running of the school to the head teacher. The governing body has to call that head teacher to account. We need to sharpen performance management-not in a harsh way, but in a way that enables it to happen well. We are just starting a research project on that, funded by the DfE.
Chris Hill: There is an inevitable thing there. I have been a head long enough to know that in the past there used to be local authority advisers attending governing body meetings, so they would be able to give support to a governing body during a meeting. A lot of that would not happen nowadays. The clerk could be central to making sure that proper procedures are followed, but that is a question of whether the clerking is all appropriate. Again, there are inconsistencies. There is very good practice, but there are also some people who are now clerking who are taking the minutes but would not have the knowledge about how to advise the chair on doing things appropriately. It is about getting those core competencies; if you have an effective clerk who can guide the governing body a little bit, then a lot of those issues and disputes may disappear. It is having that consistency so that it happens everywhere.
Q68 Chair: Mike, the clerk can sometimes be the PA to the head, and they are also supposed to be providing the lay governing body with expert advice, possibly on issues of dispute between the head and the governors. Is it appropriate that you should have members of the school staff acting as clerks?
Mike Cladingbowl: We would not want to tell schools how to organise their own clerking; it is important that they are able to make those kinds of decisions themselves. But it is true, from my own experience before I joined Ofsted, that head teachers are dispensing with the services of the local authority to clerk meetings because it costs money; we would use our registrar or bursar or whatever it was. Whether it is appropriate or not probably depends on the individual circumstances.
Q69 Chair: You have given a clear answer, which is that you are not going to press on that, but how important is the quality of clerking? You have said you are taking an increased interest in the quality of governance. How important to facilitating that is the quality of clerking? What are you doing on that front?
Professor James: Chair, let us be absolutely clear: it is hugely important.
Mike Cladingbowl: We do not have any evidence on it, so I am not able to speak from that perspective. The only comment I would make is that I can see great value in having a function that helps governing bodies do their job and ask schools the right kinds of question at the right times and so on. That function may well be delivered by a clerk, but it presumably is not the only way. The notion that you need an adviser to the governing body who is an adviser to the school means it becomes a bit complicated.
Professor James: Sorry to burst in there, Chair, but it is hugely important. All our research indicates that to be effective, a governing body must be organised. It is in itself its own little organisation and needs to be run properly and do the right things and work in the way it is meant to. The chair has overall responsibility, then alongside the chair is a clerk who can advise and make sure that the system is run as it is meant to be.
Chair: As I know very well, an excellent clerk can prop up a weak chair and make everything work reasonably well overall.
Mike Cladingbowl: Something about very clearly understood roles and references is important in all that. We certainly find when we go into schools that are failing and are judged to require special measures and so on-and I have been to many of those personally as well as having dealt with them-that governance there may be weak, but it is not helped by the fact that it does not have a properly organised structure, nobody knows when they are supposed to turn up and when they are not, there are often members of the governing body, sadly sometimes nominated by local authorities, who never turn up and have not done for years, and so on. Yes, absolutely they need to be organised. It helps.
Chris Hill: I have always personally, as a head myself, wanted an independent clerk. Different schools do different things, but I think there are advantages to that. Increasingly, you are going to have problems if a governing body is not the strongest governing body and needs to develop its skills; all too often it may be only the head teacher who is the person doing this other role of nurturing and training, where there again there could be conflicts over time. That is why I personally think an independent, experienced, quality clerk could be very beneficial to both the head teacher and the school, and to the governing body as a whole, enabling them all to do their jobs appropriately.
Neil Calvert: I think there are three distinct roles for the clerk. The first is clearly the organisational one. That can help to make sure that a large governing body remains in touch with the school; that is really important. The advisory one, clearly, we have established, is really important, but I think a school can retain good legal advice that allows a clerk who is perhaps not a professional in that field still to pass on advice to the governing body. The third one, which we have perhaps missed to some extent, is simply the minuting of meetings. Anecdotally, during my last inspection, which was just before the September 2012 framework, some of the evidence taken for effective governance was about a meeting to do with the curriculum where there was significant challenge about a new curriculum proposal. A less verbose style of clerking, which could have been quite acceptable, would not have allowed the inspector to spot that and could have changed quite a pivotal judgment. That is important to me.
Q70 Neil Carmichael: I want to probe the point Mike was making about accountability, because I think it is a really important one. In between inspections, governing bodies can fall and fail, so who are they really going to be accountable to? How can that accountability be strengthened? The point I made earlier about interim executive boards is certainly the ultimate test, but who is really going to apply that test and apply that accountability?
Mike Cladingbowl: There are obviously different schools out there and different kinds of arrangements for schools. We know that half of secondary schools are now academies of one sort or another, but even within that, they are very different, as you well know. Those academies that are involved in a federation or in a chain and so on are more likely, in our experience, to have accountability mechanisms that will work. We also know from taking evidence from sponsor academies-forgetting converter ones-that those that are in a chain are far more likely to do better at inspection that those that are single sponsor academies. There is just something about the nature of the organisation you are working with that is important in all of that. I suppose the greatest worry, if you translate that evidence across, would be those schools that have converted to become academies but are flying solo.
Q71 Chair: What about a solo primary school in a rural area with no effective competition, so it is quite hard to find any accountability, which happened to get "outstanding" and will therefore next be inspected by you Lord knows when? If it is "good" it is five years.
Mike Cladingbowl: That is absolutely the key question. We know that if they are not part of a local authority, their relationship with the local authority will be different, but let us not forget local authorities still do have a statutory responsibility for ensuring equality of opportunity and promoting good achievement and so on for all the children, regardless of what school they attend, in that local authority area. We are thinking and have been talking a little bit about how we are going to work with local authorities and start to inspect local authorities in order to make sure that they are doing that part of their job as well as they can. That is one bit of the answer. We also, through our new regional structure, without recreating a middle tier, expect HMI to be closer to the ground and we will run risk assessments and consider running risk assessments more frequently than we do at the moment to see whether any intervention might be required. But these are big, complex and difficult matters.
Professor James: Chair, can I just very quickly add two points? There are two changes that could be made with very little cost. One is that all governing bodies should be required to make an annual report, which they publish on the school’s website, which gives an account of their work and their sense of the conduct of the school in the previous year, which all stakeholders can read. That is a very simple way of enhancing accountability. The other is, if you are judged as an "outstanding" school by Ofsted, you should be required to submit a risk assessment on an annual basis. "You have been ‘outstanding’ and we want you to stay ‘outstanding’, but that can be threatened in any one of a number of ways, so you must return that information".
Q72 Neil Carmichael: If a governing body is stuffed full of stakeholders, is it likely that the bodies that they represent are going to challenge the performance of the governing body?
Professor James: Absolutely.
Q73 Neil Carmichael: What evidence is there?
Professor James: If you are a parentgovernor, so you are representative of parents, as you turn up to school events, you will be challenged by parents who do not think that that school is doing well enough.
Q74 Chair: Are parentgovernors the most effective governors for challenge?
Professor James: It does depend on the local circumstances. We have very effective challenge from local businesses in the school where I am a governor.
Mike Cladingbowl: I know there are countless examples of parents challenging schools and governing bodies and making a proper fuss when things are not good enough, but we also find that, in those schools that are only mediocre or worse, parents are quite satisfied with their school. Often, we go in and we find that parents say, "Actually, the school is good", and not all, but the vast majority of parents think everything is absolutely fine, whereas in fact we know it is not.
Q75 Pat Glass: We have talked a lot about mandatory training for governors and, Chris, you said earlier that you are in favour of that, so I would like to know about the others. What about the mandatory training for heads? Are they clear about the role that they have?
Chris Hill: I will simply say, as a head, it can only be of benefit, if the head is not clear themselves about what their responsibilities are and does not fully understand how important the governing body is. If you have then got a clerk, a chair and a head who know exactly what they are meant to be doing, a lot of the other things will start to fall into place.
Q76 Chair: How do we deliver that? That is Pat’s question. Do we want to change training? At which point? Who should do it? Where? How?
Chris Hill: As someone who has been an NPQH tutor in the past, although I know NPQH is no longer mandatory, I think there should be a greater focus, in preparing for headship, on a greater understanding for those prospective in that job of what the governors and their relationship should be.
Professor James: I support that, Chair; NPQH would be a way of doing it.
Neil Calvert: I rarely use my NPQH training on a daytoday basis. One of the big learning points of becoming a new head several years ago now was the importance of the relationship with the chair of governors. I am not sure that was ever covered in NPQH; that would certainly strengthen it.
Mike Cladingbowl: We know training is really important, but we also know training is most effective when people know they need to be trained. If you make training mandatory, people sometimes do not think that or they do not understand that. The other difficulty is that headship can be lonely, but it is also a terrific job and we should surely be appointing head teachers who will take some responsibility for making sure they are up for doing the job.
Q77 Pat Glass: So one recommendation from you is that the NPQH should include training for heads on their roles.
Professor James: Absolutely, yes.
Mike Cladingbowl: I think we want to come back to you on that; we might write to you on it.
Q78 Craig Whittaker: I want to go back to the role of the clerk. Neil, you mentioned a list of things that they should be doing. Do you not think one of the things is to filter out the information that goes to governing bodies, which heads and chairs currently get criticised for doing?
Neil Calvert: Yes, to some extent. Particularly at the moment, when there is so much of that and this is so complex, I think it is a huge ask for the clerk to be able to filter some of that out. It probably goes against the spirit, but I think the head does have a role to play in that still, not in terms of filtering things out that do not reach governors, but in terms of clarifying and, without being patronising, simplifying so that it is in a form that can be accessible to governors.
Professor James: I am not altogether sure it is the clerk’s role to do that. I would look to the chair to do that and to engage the clerk as appropriate. Information flow from the school to the governing body and from the governing body to the school is a matter of responsibility for the two heads of those organisations-the chair and the head teacher-and I think they should fully understand what information needs to go.
Q79 Craig Whittaker: Where you have got chairs and head teachers who are in these cosy situations, how do you stop them only giving what they feel, where actually there should be much more going on?
Professor James: One of the strengths of school governing is the collective nature. Yes, we have the chair, who is responsible for the functioning of the governing body, but behind that chair is a crowd of people who are saying, "Well, you have sent us this information, but, quite frankly, it is not enough". That would be how you do that.
Mike Cladingbowl: Partly in answer to your question about how we keep accountability up there and keep people aware of how well schools are performing in between inspections and all the rest of it, but also partly as a way of helping to sharpen governance as well as giving governors the tools to do the job, we are introducing and we will be issuing and sending out next month, all things being equal, to all schools in England a new governor dashboard, which is simple, comparative and direct information about the performance of their school. We will send that directly to chairs of governors.
Q80 Chair: How drilleddown will that be? Going back to the issue earlier about the individual teacher-
Mike Cladingbowl: It will not have that level of detail, but what it will have, we think for the first time, is enough summary data to let chairs of governors know if it looks as if the school is not doing well enough and they need to ask some questions.
Q81 Siobhain McDonagh: When is that coming out, sorry?
Mike Cladingbowl: All things being equal, we are expecting it to come out next month.
Q82 Chair: I, like many others, became the chairman of governors of a failing school. When you are failing, you get that urgency; the first thing to do is work out who is doing well enough, who is not and, while you have got to try to help everyone to come up, divide those effectively into those you think can, with the right support, and those who probably never can. That individuallevel understanding certainly comes if a school gets put into special measures. Where is the right balance? How much of a role should governors have in checking the individual performance management, drilling down to the individual teachers? "Who are the four lowestperforming teachers in this school, head teacher, and precisely what are you doing for each of them?" To what extent is that happening? Should it happen?
Professor James: I think a crucial question, and one that governors often miss, is not "How are we doing in relation to our neighbouring school?" but the nature of inschool variation. Inschool variation is generally much, much larger than betweenschool variation. A big message that school governors could learn is at that level, asking the crucial question, which is: "In science, what is the difference between the results our best teacher gets and those our worst teacher gets?" You would want to put it better than that, but those are the kinds of question that governors should be asking about the data.
Q83 Chair: To what extent do they get that information? There is RAISEonline and we are trying to encourage better understanding of that. Take us through that, Mike.
Mike Cladingbowl: It is patchy, in my experience, but it is absolutely right that governors ask the head and others questions such as, "Where is the strongest teaching in your school?" and "What are you doing about where the weakest teaching is?" That does not need to involve conversations about individuals.
Q84 Chair: Is that a suggestion that somehow it would be improper if it did?
Professor James: You do not want to drag the governing body into operational matters. There is an issue there, I think.
Mike Cladingbowl: Yes, of course they should, if they are involved in any kind of capability process or disciplinary process as part of a staffing committee or whatever the arrangements are; it is absolutely right to have those individual discussions. But it will depend on the severity of the problem.
Q85 Chair: But that requires the head to bring to the governing body a real problem in capability, whereas the point is to get the governing body to be identifying and checking that that popular member of the staffroom, who, as it happens, year after year does not teach people much French, is being challenged, and equally, that that person there who is exceptional and is in the 90th percentile of performance and is brilliant is not allowed to leave the school to become a deputy when they love teaching and are miraculous in their impact on kids, particularly previously lower attaining kids, and that there will again be a plan to try to do whatever it takes to keep that person in the classroom. From both ends, do we not need that? If you do not have the information, how on earth do you do it? You end up doing a policy; you work on your antiracism policy again.
Mike Cladingbowl: Let me just say that this week we have written to all schools-you may not have got the letters yet-reminding them that when Ofsted come to visit, they will want to see information about the performance of teachers and the relationship between that and their progression along pay scales. We spelt this out in more detail than we have before. Michael Wilshaw has been very clear that it is not good enough for schools or for governors to preside over a system whereby teachers are being rewarded year after year for producing poor results and for not doing a good enough job, and equally, where teachers are not being rewarded for doing really, really well. These are the sorts of questions that governors ought to be asking, certainly in general, and, where necessary, they should be drilling down into the specifics. That is the job of governors, in our view: to check that the head is running the school properly. That includes making sure that there are sufficient performancemanagement arrangements. Equally, many governors do a great job, but many of them could do much, much more in better performance management of the head.
Q86 Mr Ward: Chris, you made a point about inschool variation. What if the best teacher in your school would not be regarded as the best one in another school?
Professor James: Yes, that could be true, but just to add to that, our question is not just, "What is the difference between the results gained by the best teacher and the results gained by the worst teacher?" but, "What is that best teacher doing and what is the school doing to enable that best practice to be shared?"
Q87 Neil Carmichael: Is that discussion on the governing body’s role in the performance of teachers going to be helped or hindered by staff governors?
Professor James: Our research shows staff governors make a varied contribution. Generally it is very, very helpful. Generally, staff governors manage that potentially conflicting role.
Q88 Neil Carmichael: Are there any exceptions?
Professor James: Of course there are, but I do not think we can legislate for the exception. What you need is a good chair saying, "You might have that role in the school when you are a teacher; here you are a governor".
Q89 Chair: Does anybody else think that staff governors are a bad idea, even if we do not legislate for it?
Chris Hill: I think staff governors have a role to play on a governing body, because they can provide a different perspective of the school from the head, which may be very useful to the governors. There are checks and balances about issues like competency and how that needs to be done where it can be difficult.
Q90 Chris Skidmore: How good are the current arrangements for tackling underperforming or failing governing bodies? Do you feel that the interim executive boards come in fast enough? Do the arrangements for local authorities suspending the budget of schools work? What more could be done, or are the current arrangements satisfactory?
Mike Cladingbowl: There are two things, really. We have said something about this in the evidence we have presented. Sometimes it is too late. There is a large secondary school that came to my attention very recently-no reason why it should not be good-that had an interim executive board put in place shortly before we visited it and it has now gone into special measures. That should have happened much quicker. People were aware of underperformance in that particular school, so I think that is a weakness. When they are put in place, generally they are very positive and productive and they do bring a sense of urgency and direction and directness. What we do know, though-and this is a worry-is that since October 2007, around half of local authorities have not used IEBs at all. Of course, it is not the case that, in half of the local authorities, they have had no problems with their schools; they clearly have. They are not using their powers. Since April 2007, around 70 of the local authorities in England-a little under half-have not issued any warning notices, including, we note, the three local authorities that had the highest percentage of schools found to be inadequate between April 2007 and August 2012. Those figures are pretty stark.
Q91 Chris Skidmore: What would be a natural trigger for issuing a warning notice? Is it not just school performance? Is it attendance? What would be the criteria?
Professor James: A whole set of information would come through the network, so you may well have a local authority clerking system; information could come through that way. I have to say that I think the relationships between local authorities and school governing bodies are not as sound as they should be and could be improved.
Q92 Chair: How?
Professor James: One very simple thing is to make the connection between an authority governor and the local authority much, much more productive. Nothing happens. You get named an authority governor and then nothing happens. Local authorities could be required to have a twiceyearly meeting with their authority governors to establish that link. The information comes through in a range of ways, but I am totally at one with Mike that it does not happen quickly enough. We should not be having disasters; we need to prevent those. That can be through early intervention and, if things do start going seriously wrong, an IEB.
Q93 Chris Skidmore: Obviously Ofsted plays a role in this as well. Mike, you mentioned that you have a new rigorous system in place and you were proudly about to describe it. The evidence we have got from the NAHT says that the new inspection judgment criteria for school leadership and management represents for them a "backwards step", as they believe Ofsted has failed to separate governance from operational leadership. That, they believe, makes your judgments of governing bodies "questionable". I was wondering how you would respond to those comments, and also whether the head teachers had any comments on the new inspection regime and whether you feel it is fit for purpose.
Mike Cladingbowl: I will quickly follow up on the issue of warning notices and interim executive boards. Local authorities have got powers to do these, but the powers are circumscribed, so there are circumstances in which they may do it and circumstances in which they may not and they need to follow proper processes and so on. We are involved with warning notices because we have to look at appeals, and there are questions that might usefully be looked at around the ease with which these things can be issued and whether the circumstances around their issue might need altering. I do not have any evidence on that, but it is certainly something that we would be prepared to go back and have a look at and write to you about, if that would be helpful.
On your specific point, I think it is right that we have gone to the four judgments plus the overall one. I think it is right that we do not separate out governance as a separate judgment. By putting them together, we are making the point that governors have a significant and important part to play in the leadership of a school-in particular the strategic leadership, less so the operational leadership, but nevertheless the two things are intertwined. As we are expecting governing bodies to engage more directly and more frequently with heads where schools are not doing well enough about what needs to be done in order to get better, it is right that we allow inspectors to make an overall judgment about the impact of governors. I would also like to say directly that, in the inspection reports that we now publish, since September, although they do not have a separate grade for governance-it is subsumed within the leadership and management one-we are writing more clearly and more directly about governors than we have done for some time. The new inspection regime is delivering more information to governors and others about the quality of governance.
Chris Hill: If you are going to do that, there should be a separate grade for the governors. If there is an issue about leadership, it may be clearly written, but for some parents it would be easier if they could see the grade and therefore see where the issue has an impact. The problem for a school such as mine, which is in an area with a transient population and where my governing body will change quite a bit, is that stakeholders that come on, a lot of them from overseas, do not know the system and need a lot of nurturing. The fact that I might have a sudden change in that group at a particular time may lower the governing body for a period of time.
Q94 Chair: Do you agree with the NAHT’s criticisms of the new Ofsted approach?
Chris Hill: Yes, because it could mean that the leadership of the school generally is good; the leadership, supporting and nurturing of the governing body is good as well and the governing body is developing, but it is a transient thing. That is inevitably going to happen when you have volunteers coming in at any time.
Neil Calvert: I would concur with Mike. I think that grouping the two together in one judgment is the right way to go. I do not think the leadership judgment should be a celebration of a great head or a damning of a poor head on their own; it allows governors to share the burden there, because that is clearly how the school needs to be run.
Q95 Chris Skidmore: Is that not just giving an excuse for poor teachers? Head teachers are paid quite a lot of money and the governors are given nothing. To give parity of esteem to governors when they have given up their time, is that not just giving the head teachers a break?
Neil Calvert: The point I was going to come on to was that I think it is important that people are encouraged to read the report, because a single number does not tell the story and the story is in the report; it will say very clearly whether there are failures or successes in the headship, the senior leadership and the governance. That is not a weakness of the current inspection framework, but it is one of the things that we need to encourage people to do: to read beyond the number. If that is done, then I think it is effective.
Q96 Pat Glass: On the point you were making, Neil, that people should be encouraged to read the report, can I just say to Mike that making it slightly less dense would help? Ofsted reports always look the same. There are great chunks and it is really hard to read.
Mike Cladingbowl: The reports are different; they are written in bullet points and nobody likes them, but we think they are better. We will make sure you are sent some so you can see those.
Professor James: Very briefly, Chair, it is a matter of what you inspect and what the expectations are of what you are inspecting-I think governing bodies should be inspected closely, the expectations of them should be set out-and then how you report that judgment. A smaller number of significant judgments is perhaps the right way to go, but let’s inspect governance.
Q97 Siobhain McDonagh: Should governing bodies operate more as company boards of directors?
Professor James: All I would say is we have done a review of the role of the board chair in a whole range of settings. There is very, very little difference between the general structures and the general models. Principal agent and stewardship apply in both settings; if you just change "shareholder" to "stakeholder" you get a broadly similar view. Let’s have a bit of clarity around this. People are forever saying, "Schools are special, you know". Of course in a sense they are, but they need to be governed and they need to be managed properly, so I think more or less the same principles apply.
Q98 Siobhain McDonagh: It is probably an issue about whether there is a need for a community link, rather than just the management of the institution.
Professor James: It is a question of substituting the term "shareholder" for "stakeholder". You then get a very good sense of what school governing bodies should be like. Company boards are responsible to shareholders; school boards are responsible to stakeholders-all those who have an interest in the school.
Chris Hill: If you were going down that path-I think there is mileage in that-you would also need to look at where the stakeholders fit in and developing a role for them, because the stakeholders have to play a very important part in it. I am not totally clear, but the company board type of way sounds slightly more distant, but there needs to be a way that there is a link between stakeholders and that company board so that that is strong.
Q99 Siobhain McDonagh: Is it realistic to expect that even in a very small rural primary school, you are going to get the broad range of skills to be like that board?
Professor James: Yes, absolutely. It depends on having a good chair, some agency, some energy and some drive from the governing body to get what they want to govern that school properly.
Q100 Chair: Are you less likely in one place than another to get that balance?
Professor James: Of course.
Q101 Chair: If so, where are you less likely to get it?
Professor James: Where there is low performance; where there are low levels of socioeconomic status; and where the school is not, to use an interesting term, loved by its local community.
Mike Cladingbowl: The question that sits alongside that is: does each school need to have its own board?
Professor James: Absolutely yes, Chair, so that the local community locally govern their local school.
Q102 Chair: What do you think, Neil and Chris?
Chris Hill: In a community such as mine, one of the issues is that a lot of my stakeholders are new to the country. They are keen and interested in their children’s education and they want to get involved, but they do not have a great understanding of the system and a lot of them would never have been on a committee of any kind at all. There are a lot of issues about them developing their expertise. I think that is a big issue.
Neil Calvert: There are tensions for the governing body, for example, of a primary school that struggles to recruit that skillset, between continuing to soldier on like that and keep the autonomy of being a school in their own right, and federating within a larger model, gaining the skillset and potentially losing the stakeholder involvement. Quite a few small primaries are dealing with those tensions at the moment.
Q103 Chair: As so often, we will give Ofsted the last word.
Mike Cladingbowl: Secondary schools in disadvantaged areas struggle in exactly the same way. It depends how you define a community. Five villages near to one another, each with their own school, is equally a community as each of those individual villages. In the end, we need to do what works and we need to do whatever is necessary to make it work. I suspect that might mean that we need to have different arrangements for different kinds of schools.
Chair: A very Blairite way to end.
Siobhain McDonagh: Always the best way.
Chair: Thank you all, gentlemen, very much for giving evidence to us this morning.