The thoughts of a newish governor
Having been a governor many years ago, whilst part of the school senior leadership team, it’s been an interesting return. I left teaching over 12 years ago and since then there have been many significant changes. Not least austerity, changes to statutory assessment, new Ofsted frameworks and of course increasing academization and the decline of Local Authority services. I have returned to governance as a community governor in a small single infant academy.
Having joined midway through the school year as a community governor I was very much looking forward to September to see the cycle of review and support through a complete year. I had acquired the role of link governor for curriculum and had already begun some planning for my post on the governing body during the summer holidays. There are a considerable number of areas to cover. Fortunately, through our scheme of delegation not all of the areas fall under my remit and both SEN and Standards are actually covered by other governors. I had mapped out my specific responsibilities based on the scheme and reviewed the minutes from the meetings throughout the past year to see how well we had covered them (and how) and was developing a plan for the year ahead based both on coverage and the school improvement plan. As part of this, I had accessed the curriculum leaders’ annual subject reviews and had questions at the ready.
Needless to say, my preparation proved very useful, but not necessarily as I had intended. Two weeks into term (and the new school year) and the call came through confirming the school’s Ofsted inspection. Having taken the time to review our scheme, knowing our responsibilities, understanding the school priorities and how they are determined allowed me to feel confident when meeting the inspectors (with two other governors) and enabled me to contribute effectively to the process. I am delighted to say, though not surprised, that the school was judged to be good in all aspects.
That the governing board plays a key role in ensuring quality education is undisputed and I am privileged to work on a very good one. It is, however, the school leadership and staff team that make the difference. Their professionalism, expertise and dedication are beyond question. They ensure that the children in their care are nurtured and are engaged and motivated by a broad, balanced and rich curriculum. If this team are supported well I have no doubt that they will continue to improve and provide ever-improving education for the children who pass through the school.
My concern, however, at this stage of my career as a governor, is whether that support can and will continue. What is evident, whatever the rhetoric, whatever the rights and wrongs of the school funding debate are that this school is suffering the consequences of reducing school funding. Careful planning and healthy reserves, built previously, have enabled the school to produce balanced budgets over recent years and to project balanced ones in the next few. But this has come at a cost. This year the school moved from six classes to five. This not only brings increased class sizes but also reorganisation to cater for mixed-age classes. At the same time, the school has had to make the difficult decision to reduce the number of support staff, further increasing the pupil to staff ratio. The staff have coped admirably, but this is not a sustainable position. We simply cannot ask teachers to continue to deliver at the same level with ever-diminishing resources and increasingly challenging circumstances. They need and deserve our support and part of that is fair funding.
For my part, I will continue as a governor whilst I believe I can support effectively and contribute to the school’s success. I will continue to question to help the professionals to clarify and challenge their perceptions and thoughts. I will continue to meet the teachers, to share and celebrate their contribution to the broad and balanced curriculum and I will ask for their reviews and their reports. But I will do this conscious of the ever-growing demands on their time and the seemingly ever-decreasing resources at their disposal.
*This post was written before the budget and whilst I very much welcome the additional money announced, it is clearly not the solution to the existing issues. Hopefully the long-awaited spending review may finally bring austerity for the education sector to an end.
Many thanks to Colin Green for this reflective post. Find him on Twitter @NewEraEdCG