in School governance

Hertfordshire Governor Conference 2015

UPDATE 27 NOVEMBER: Hertfordshire County Council have now made the presentations available on their website.

A couple of weeks ago I attended the Hertfordshire Governor Conference. This was my second time at the event in as many years. Both times I found the content to be informative and inspirational. I also left with a feeling about how much more I could/should be doing for my school as a governor, but I assume that's a good thing!

Whenever I go to a conference I end up taking copious notes. As well as sharing these with my school's governing body I thought I would post them here with the hope that they would be useful to somebody.

Councillor David Williams opening speech

  • 85% Herts schools are good or outstanding

Matthew Syed keynote—journalist and two-time Commonwealth table tennis champion

  • Natural talent vs working hard for achievement
  • Western culture promotes emphasis on the former whereas the evidence is more for the latter
  • Relate to children thinking “I’m just not good at maths, I don’t have the right brain for it.”
  • Also teachers who struggle with aspects of the job
  • [| Relates to the ‘estate of the mind’ thinking?
  • Need to promote a ‘growth mindset culture’
  • Contrast of aviation industry having a learning culture (from 50% of US pilots in peacetime dying in crashes to 2014 record of 1 crash in every 8.1m flights) to Healthcare which does not have one. In aviation they are constantly learning and wanting to do better by examining all of the data.
  • Politicians don’t look at the outcomes of their policies and if they do—and the data is poor—they spin the information.
  • Example of concentration of 5 of the top 10 table tennis players worldwide in one street. Reasons behind it were great coaching and 24h access to a dedicated table tennis centre close by to allow meaningful practice.
  • Question from the audience about resources/budget: Don’t diminish importance of it, but it is independent of culture.
  • Resilience
  • Don’t keep praising children for their talent, say “well done, you worked hard” and other phrases that praise the effort.
  • Most important people to get into the growth mindset are the teachers.

Seminar: Raising achievement through engaging parents (Carole Bennett, HfL Head of Business Development)

  • Parenting impact is the most overwhelming factor, above the school, in terms of attitude to learning etc.
  • In secondary school friends start to take over but parents still sit above the school in terms of impact
  • Schools can raise attainment by 5%, however…
  • Parents who take an active part in the child’s learning can make a 30% difference!
  • Involvement in learning is not (just?) knowing what the school did
  • Children reading—not correlated to parents spending time reading with the kids or taking to the library. Correlation was with having books in the house. Why? Because the parents read a lot for pleasure and modelled the behaviour. Children learn by what they see. They will think it’s important and want to do it.
  • Nagging the child makes musical tuition a chore. Model the behaviour and pick up an instrument for pleasure yourself!
  • Parental engagement is not performance management, not telling them what to do and them going away again
  • Some areas to think about relating to parental engagement
    • What is being done –> So what? –> What next?
    • Newsletters (also blogs, Facebook, Twitter –> go where the parents are, don’t make them come to you)
    • What is your communications strategy? Don’t add on lots of channels without thinking why and what for. What difference does it make? Can get sucked into logistics e.g. ‘Don’t forget fancy dress day, please don’t park here etc.’ Not learning!
    • Do parents know what your children are learning? If they are doing growth mindset at school, how do the parents know?
    • Themes of learning, let parents know regularly what they are. Remind the parents to ask what they learned. “We had a visitor to the school today. Ask your child what they learned.”
    • Do you get parent feedback on your communications? For the parents who are difficult to reach, ask them why? What can we do to help?
    • MarvellousMe app. Works on interactive whiteboard and pings the parent to say what they have achieved.
    • “You’re really good at tennis!” “I’ve worked really hard at it, that’s why. I do 6h a week.”
  • Meetings/consultations/parents evenings
    • What are they for? Clear view for both parents and the school.
    • Who feeds back on the design, frequency and information?
    • Feedback? Chairs, timings etc.
    • Ask parents what they want.
  • Learning and development for parents
    • How do parents develop their knowledge of
      • Curriculum
      • Learning
      • Approaches
    • How were the topics/areas selected?
    • Who does it? Why?
    • Who goes? Why? Why not?
    • Think about not just subject-based learning, also think about themes, e.g. questioning, growth mindset, strategies for children in terms of how to get unstuck etc.
    • Have the parents had the opportunity to say what they think would be useful?
    • See ‘the learning pit’—don’t helicopter in and get them out of the struggle when they find work hard, let them know that this is a normal feeling and, help them to practise getting themselves out of trouble. Reinforce that it is a normal feeling to be frustrated etc. when in the pit.
  • Parent2Parent
  • How can we as a GB change the way the institution runs?
    • Reshaping the curriculum?
    • Using parents specialisms within the curriculum? (Do a survey to find out what parents do!)
    • Recognise home learning in the school day
    • Feed into the governing body
  • Investor in Parents award is something the school can go for (parents collect the award in front of their children in assembly and the children love it!)

The Federation Journey

  • Chair of Barclay and Almond Hill (both were chairs) and now a federation
  • Hard Federation is one governing body over all of the schools
  • Have separate finances as they have a junior school and a senior school
  • Why?
    • Raise aspirations/outcomes
    • Sharing teachers with opportunities to upskill them too
    • Shared expertise
    • Shared interventions
    • Shared premises
  • Governing Body decision to consider the federation—confidential (staff don’t know, for example, except heads, chairs etc.)
    • Committed core of governors prepared to do it
    • Look at pros and cons
    • Create a consultation document
    • Circulate and get feedback over ~6weeks
  • Decided that they would have a hard federation or nothing
  • 21 governors (option to go to 24), 1 chair, 3 vice-chairs as there is lots more work to do
  • Caused a lot of trouble for the LA as they hadn’t done it before and they wanted to get it right
  • Took two years from start to finish
  • Not a lot of solicitors fees as they are not combined legal entity (although they do have the name)
  • Get money when becoming a multi-academy trust (they are not one) but it goes very quickly, need to be very careful if you go this route. Solicitors fees are thousands to set up new legal entity.
  • Secondary school negotiates purchases for both schools and because there is one GB the junior school agrees at that level to the purchase and gets billed.
  • Secondary school is a grade II listed building and needed £5m of work on it, so the GB didn’t want to go independent and immediately become liable for it. By being federated the council are still responsible and have found the money for the work.
  • Audience point: Biggest thing for a 3-school federation is recruitment and retention. New contracts for all school staff when the federation was established.
  • Joined up with secondary school and concerns about the other 6 feeder schools. Junior school said the secondary could share best practice with the other juniors!

External Reviews of Governance—Pat and Mick Furness

  • Governing body are volunteers but they are volunteering to work
  • Those who don’t contribute are putting on the others
  • 20 (now 21?) questions for governing body to ask itself
  • [| Reminder on ‘School Governance: Learning From The Best’ publication
  • Lots of reviews use two reviewers, one may be being trained in the process
  • Nine criteria for effective governance
    • 45 questions questionnaire
    • Baseline for a discussion
  • Minutes need to reflect ‘matters arising’ from the previous meeting and that there has been follow-up. Show challenge. Evidence!
  • Challenge, impact and ambition—Ofsted love these. Prove we cover them in our minutes.
  • Changed in March
    • Four areas looked at by Ofsted
    • 25 questions questionnaire
  • What do we spend the pupil premium on? How much impact does it have? Trend analysis for the past three years…

Andrew Cook, Ofsted Regional Director, East of England—keynote


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