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Governors and school leaders

The importance of working together

While teachers are on the frontline in the classroom, there are plenty of professionals working behind the scenes to make sure the school is a success, including the governors. Education leaders and governors must work together to ensure schools are travelling in the right direction.

Yet in many cases governors are not provided with the training and support they need to help them with this endeavour, and this is what a new initiative between the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and the School Governors' One-Stop Shop looks to address.  Ruth Spellman, Chief Executive at CMI, said: "School governors may be widely respected within their communities but often they are among the first to be criticised when schools fail to perform. It's no enviable position; they give their time voluntarily, but frequently do so without recourse to consistent levels of training or support."

"In an environment in which the quality of school leadership, at every level, is critical to the future success of its pupils, this cannot be allowed to continue." The two organisations formed a partnership to provide governors with the tools they believe are needed to allow them to carry out their roles better.

Through the scheme, governors should be able to better work with school leaders to ensure the quality of education on offer is improved, have an understanding of budgeting which will allow them to make greater use of resources and become better at leading teams through working on communication and conflict resolution. Further to this, the pair will work on promoting the benefits of working as a school governor. However, before these goals can be achieved, a greater understanding of the role of the governor is needed, for example how exactly should the relationship between the school leader and the governors operate.

A report into the Work of School Governors, released by Ofsted in 2002, suggest governors play an essential role improving the performance of a school, despite in most cases having very little contact with pupils.
"It is not possible to prove that good governance leads to good schools, as the cause and effect evidence is impossible to isolate. However, there are very strong indicators to show that where there is good governance the school is more likely to be successful," the report stated.

It also suggested a link between strong governance and good teacher performance, stating: "Governors often do not have a direct impact on the quality of teaching, but effective governors do ensure that the senior staff implement a programme of lesson observations to monitor teaching and learning at first hand, and receive feedback on the quality of the educational provision."

Furthermore, as is to be expected based on the previous arguments, strong governors were shown to produce more effective school leadership. However, unlike with teaching, where it was possible for poor governance to be accompanied by strong classroom standards, where governors were considered "unsatisfactory" school leadership was also likely to be viewed in a similar light.

In those schools where governance was shown to be poor but leadership was good, key reasons for this included the governors not being informed well enough about the day to day running of the institution, or where there had not been sufficient training for the governors to be aware of all their responsibilities.

Further evidence showing governors are not receiving the training needed for them to work effectively with members of the school leadership was also presented in a more recent report by Ofsted. Released in December, the research on Developing Leadership in National Support Schools found when institutions are partnered to share leadership best practice this does not always filter through to the governors. "Opportunities for governors to work together in the partnerships to support their development and effectiveness were not as frequent or systematic as for other leaders," it stated in its key findings. The report concluded this lack of collaboration meant governors had little opportunity to work on their skills in both supporting and challenging members of the school leadership.

Among those calling for more training is the National Governor's Association (NGA), which wants free and mandatory training for all new governors. This might be particularly important as England's education system enters a period of upheaval, with academies presenting one major issue. Lord Hill issued an open letter to all governors ahead of a speech to the NGA asking those working with schools which have been classed as outstanding to consider academy status.

If governors hope to make difficult decisions on policies such as this in the future, they must work closely with school leadership to establish an institution's strengths and weaknesses and make the right choice for all involved