Governor Handbook

STATEMENT OF INTENT

 At The Leek Federation we believe that the Governing Body needs to exhibit certain behaviours. These are essentially:

  • There will be a positive relationship between governors and school leaders based on trust, openness and transparency. The Governing Body will systematically monitor the schools’ progress towards meeting agreed development targets. Information about what is going well and why, and what is not going well and why, will be shared. The Governors will consistently ask for more information, explanation or clarification. This will ensure a strong contribution to robust planning for improvement.
  • Governors will be well informed and knowledgeable because they will be given high- quality, accurate information that is concise and focused on student achievement. This information will be made accessible by being presented in a wide variety of formats, including charts and graphs.
  • Governors will take and support hard decisions in the interests of students: will back the school leaders when they need to change staff.
  • Outstanding governance requires the Governing Body to support honest, insightful self-evaluation by the schools, recognising problems and supporting the steps needed to address them.
  • Governors will have absolute clarity about the different roles and responsibilities of the school leaders and governors; this, we believe, underpins the most effective governance. Protocols, specific duties and terms of reference will be made explicit in written documents.
  • We hold the view that effective governance is driven by a core of key governors such as the Chair and Chairs of Committees; they form the Strategy Committee and as part of a team meeting termly with the Members. They will build strong relationships with the Executive Principal, the Headteachers, senior leaders and other governors.
  • Governors will endeavour to gather information about the schools at work by visiting them and talking with staff, students and parents. Clear protocols for visits will ensure that the purpose is understood by school staff and governors alike. Alongside the information they are given about the schools, these protocols will help them to make informed decisions, ask searching questions and provide meaningful support.
  • School leaders and governors will behave with integrity and are mutually supportive. The Leek Federation’s leaders do recognise that governors provide them with a different perspective which contributes to strengthening leadership. The questions they ask will challenge assumptions and support effective decision-making.
  • Governors will use the skills they bring, and the information they have about the schools, to ask challenging questions, which are focused on improvement, and hold leaders to account for students’ outcomes.
  • Time must be used efficiently by governors because there are clear procedures for delegating tasks, for example to well organised committees. The four committees will have clear terms of reference, provide high levels of challenge and use governors’ expertise to best effect. Systems are in place for sharing information and reporting back to the full Governing Body. This will not merely reiterate what has already been discussed in detail by the committee but will focus on the key points and decisions.
  • The role of the clerk to the governors is pivotal to ensuring that statutory duties are met, meetings are well organised and governors receive the information they need in good time. Consequently, governors will come to meetings well prepared and with pertinent questions ready so that they are able to provide constructive challenge.
  • A detailed timeline of activities, linked to the federations, and each individual schools development plan, will provide a clear structure for the work of governors and ensure that their time is used appropriately.
  • Governors will use their external networks and professional contacts to fill any identified gaps in the collective skills of the Governing Body.
  • There will be clear induction procedures for new governors which will help them to understand their roles and responsibilities and ensure that best use is made of their varied skills and expertise.
  • The Governing Body will constantly reflect on its own effectiveness and readily make changes to improve. It will annually consider its own training needs and the organisation of its work.

THE WORK OF THE GOVERNOR

Knowing the schools

  1. Knowing the schools well is fundamental to the success of the effectiveness of the Governing Body. The governors of TLF will expect good quality information through detailed, regular reports supported by data analysis. This will help to shape the direction for the federation and hold leaders to account. Student progress data and information about the quality of teaching will be presented consistently when considering proposals and making strategic decisions.
  2. Each of the schools will provide the governors with a detailed breakdown of information about attainment, including examination results. Minutes of Governing Body meetings will always record how these were discussed in relation to gender, special educational needs, different groups of students and subjects.
  3. The Executive Principal, the Headteachers and other relevant staff with particular areas of responsibility, will systematically provide information to governors in focused, detailed reports
  4. Relevant staff from the three schools will make presentations to governors, who will be able to ask questions, seek clarification and identify what further information might be required for proposals to be more robust. In order to be kept fully up to date the Chair of Governors will meet regularly with the Executive Principal and the Headteachers. These meetings will ensure that the chair has a clear perspective of issues as they arise, the action taken, progress being made, and the impact and outcomes. The chair will refer to some items from these meetings in Governing Body meetings. This will help to give all governors a greater insight into the effectiveness of the schools in the federation.
  5. The Governing Body will not rely solely on what the federation’s leaders and members of staff tell them. They will seek information from external experts, when relevant, on issues such as the analysis of data, finance, personnel, special educational needs and school improvement. Governors will use this external support to gain new perspectives on information provided by the schools so that they can be confident that their understanding of the federation’s performance is accurate.
  6. Governors will organise a programme of visits to the schools to talk to staff and students and to see them in action. They will use a range of formal and informal visits, including attending school events and conducting ‘learning walks’ with senior staff. Effective practice will involve a shared understanding of the purpose of the visit, how it will be conducted and how it will be reported back to the Governing Body and the relevant school’s senior staff. A report will be written for other governors on the outcomes of any visit. In this way, all the governors understand the progress being made and where there are barriers to overcome.
  7. Governors may attend lessons to see the schools at work. It will be possible to organise visits to lessons to talk to students in order to gain a better understanding of their experience of that school. Importantly, protocols need to be explicit and make it clear to staff and governors alike; the visits will not be there to judge the quality of teaching, because that is the role of the Head teacher and the senior staff. Rather, they will provide governors with a broader understanding of the context for their work and help inform their strategic decisions.
  8. The Governing Body will work to build even more productive relationships with parents. The views of parents, students and the wider community will be used as another source of information to shape questions and inform discussions.
  9. In this way TLF’s Governing Body will seek a range of good quality, regular information from a variety of sources to ensure that they have an accurate understanding of each schools strengths and areas for development. This information will include:
    • concise, focused reports from the Headteacher, senior staff and subject leaders
    • external reports,
    • presentations from staff, students and external experts
    • internal performance monitoring information
    • internal and external analyses of national tests using both benchmarking and comparative information
    • internal self-evaluation reports
    • formal and informal visits to the schools
    • questionnaires
    • discussions with parents, students and all categories of staff.
  10. The governors will use the wide range of information they have to help shape the direction of the federation’s schools by ensuring that the development plan/s reflects the right priorities and are monitored systematically and effectively.
  11. The Governing Body will ask four key questions when considering new initiatives and evaluating their impact:
    • What will be different for students?
    • What will be different for parents?
    • What will be different for staff?
    • What will be different for partners?

 Providing challenge

  1. The Governing Body will seek to strike the right balance between supporting leaders and providing constructive challenge; they will hold senior staff to account for the quality of the schools’ provision and its impact on outcomes for students. There are three key elements to getting the balance right:
    • understanding their role and how it complements but differs from that of the Headteachers
    • using the knowledge and experience they bring to enhance leadership
    • asking pertinent questions based on the information and knowledge they have about the schools
  2. The governors will ensure that a high level of challenge is particularly evident at committee level. Governors will tend to serve on committees where their knowledge and expertise could be used to best effect but it is recognised also that it is good practice for all governors to become familiar with all aspects of the running of the federation. Their expertise, understanding of the each school’s context, and the student performance information that they received will enable them to ask pertinent and insightful questions.
  3. The Governing Body will systematically monitor the federation’s progress towards meeting the agreed targets in the development plan.
  4. The governors will also challenge each other. For example, if discussions stray into operational matters then governors, often the chair of governors, chairs of committees or Trust members, will step in to steer the conversation back to a strategic focus.

 

Working efficiently

  1. The governors of TLF believe that two factors are key to ensuring that they work systematically and effectively to meet their statutory duties. These are the role of the clerk to the Governing Body and the delegation of work, for example, to a number of core committees.
  2. The role of the clerk to the full Governing Body is pivotal to the smooth operation of the Governing Body. As well as fulfilling administrative duties, the clerk is a source of guidance and advice for the full Governing Body.
  3. A clear job description for the clerk supports their effectiveness. It ensures that the role, responsibilities and lines of accountability are understood. It is the intention of TLF’s Governing Body that the clerk will receive regular training and briefings from, for example, Entrust’s governor support services
  4. The governors believe that strong teamwork between the Executive Principal, the Headteachers, the chair of the Governing Body and the clerk are crucial to efficient working. In addition, the delegation of work to committees, with clear terms of

Engaging others

  1. The governors of TLF believe that two factors are key to ensuring that they work systematically and effectively to meet their statutory duties. These are the role of the clerk to the Governing Body and the delegation of work, for example, to a number of core committees.
  2. The role of the clerk to the full Governing Body is pivotal to the smooth operation of the Governing Body. As well as fulfilling administrative duties, the clerk is a source of guidance and advice for the full Governing Body.
  3. A clear job description for the clerk supports their effectiveness. It ensures that the role, responsibilities and lines of accountability are understood. It is the intention of TLF’s Governing Body that the clerk will receive regular training and briefings from, for example, Entrust’s governor support services
  4. The governors believe that strong teamwork between the Executive Principal, the Headteachers, the chair of the Governing Body and the clerk are crucial to efficient working. In addition, the delegation of work to committees, with clear terms of reference and clarity of purpose, is crucial to ensuring that the work of the Governing Body is managed well, matched to the needs of the federation and distributed to involve all governors appropriately.
  5. The Leek Federation’s Governing Body’s committees are the ‘engine room of governance’ where in-depth discussions, challenging questions and thorough debate of proposals take place. The skills and knowledge of the chair of a committee are crucial to their success.
  6. It is the clearly stated intention of the Governing Body of TLF to have a systematic approach to monitoring and evaluating the progress being made towards meeting targets. The review of the federation development plan is a standing agenda item either for committees, the full Governing Body or both. The Headteachers’ and senior staff reports will include information about progress with the plan. The information will be concise and made readily accessible to governors, for example through a traffic light system of coding. Governors will not only be provided with graphs, charts and commentary but will also given an analysis of what the information means and what questions it raises, and proposals about the next steps to ensure that progress is maintained.
  7. Effective reporting by committees to the full Governing Body means that time will not be spent unnecessarily reiterating what has already been discussed. The target is that as a result no Governing Body meeting lasts more than an hour and a half, and some will be concluded in an hour.

Making a difference

  1. The Governing Body of TLF strengthens leadership by:
    • providing an external view and asking questions which challenge school leaders and by encouraging alternative solutions to be found or tested proposals before they were adopted
    • having high aspirations for students, staff and the wider community
    • approving and monitoring priorities, ensuring policies are focused on the key priorities of teaching and learning, and increasing the pace of improvement
    • supporting the development of leadership potential within the federation through effective training and development opportunities
    • using their skills, expertise and external networks to complement those of the senior staff in improving provision and outcomes for students
    • supporting the appointment and retention of the best staff and actions to address underperformance.

 Recruitment, induction and training

  1. The Governing Body, at all times, seeks to have a full complement of governors.
  2. The size and composition of the Governing Body is constantly reviewed, as is the number and function of its committees.
  3. Governors use their external contacts and networks to encourage others to put themselves forward to be governors
  4. All new governors receive an induction pack which provides information about the federation and explains the roles and responsibilities of governors.
  5. Attendance at training for new governors, provided by the Local Authority or Entrust, is encouraged
  6. The federation holds a formal meeting for new governors with the Executive Principal, the Chair of Governors and the Federation Business Director to support their induction. Typically these meetings take place before the new governor attends a Governing Body meeting. This helps to ensure that the new governor understands the protocols and procedures and has an opportunity to ask any questions.
  7. TLF governors commit to undertake relevant training, depending on their other commitments as well as the timing and location of training events, to update their knowledge and skills.
  8. The Governing Body challenges its own performance in addition to that of the schools.
  9. The effectiveness of the Governing Body structures and committee membership is reviewed routinely.
  10. The Governing Body is supported by local authority and Entrust materials and/or training. It also uses Ofsted’s grade descriptors for governance to guide its self-evaluation.
  11. The effectiveness of the Governing Body is reviewed regularly and includes a clear evaluation of the effect of its decisions on the outcomes for students. There are strong links with other Governing Bodies to compare and benchmark our practice.
  12. The expertise and skills, brought by the staff, of tackling underperformance in other schools provides the Governing Body with a clear structure and framework for improvement. This framework helps the Governing Body to manage its work efficiently by keeping it focused on its core business and not straying into operational and peripheral issues. Experienced governors model effective questioning which helps to build other governors’ skills and confidence. Governors review the terms of reference and purpose of each of the committees annually, and make changes if appropriate. At each meeting the chair of the Governing Body and chairs of the committees always ask two questions: ‘Why are we doing this?’ and ‘What are we trying to achieve?’

Questions that governors might want to consider

  1. The governors make a very strong contribution to the federation and give willingly of their time. They strive for the very best for the students and communities that they serve. In reflecting on their own effectiveness, the Governing Body of TLF considers the following key questions:
    1. How do we understand our roles and responsibilities and how they differ from those of the Executive Principal, the Headteachers and senior staff?
    2. What do we know about the achievement of students and the quality of teaching in the three schools?
    3. How do we know that the information we have about the schools is robust and accurate?
    4. How do we provide the right balance of professional support and challenge for the Executive Principal, the Headteachers and senior staff to help them improve the schools’ effectiveness?
    5. How do we use our time efficiently?
    6. How do we make best use of the skills and expertise of all members of the Governing Body?
    7. How do we know that the Governing Body is as effective as possible and could we do things better?
    8. How do we review our own performance regularly?
    9. How do we plan our training and development?
    10. Do we consider what might be needed when governors leave? How do we ensure we still continue to have the necessary skills and knowledge?
    11. How do we ensure that members of our Governing Body are prepared to step into important roles such as the chair of the Governing Body and chairs of committees?