- The Framework for governance is a guide to strategic planning for governing boards.
- The framework has three elements linked to the cycle of activities of the governing body: Element A: Governing principles; Element B: Setting the strategy; Element C: Monitoring the strategy.
- The framework provides a set of detailed questions if a school wishes to audit its procedures against the governing principles.
- Governance is strategic and management is operational, a distinction that needs to be clearly understood.
- Every school needs to have a long-term strategy, based on a shared vision and agreed by the governing board, the headteacher and senior leaders.
- Key performance indicators should be agreed between the governing board and the senior leaders.
- Matching key performance indicators to the Ofsted key areas integrates monitoring and evaluation with preparation for inspection.
As a governor, I know that every meeting has a packed agenda, often dealing with matters of detail such as amending single sentences and paragraphs in policies. There is little time to consider the wider responsibilities of the role, such as determining the strategic direction of the school. Fortunately there are sources of advice, one of these being the National Governors' Association (NGA). In January 2015 the NGA published A framework for governance, which provides a very useful way to organise the strategic work of a governing body. This article provides an overview of the framework, but governing bodies are recommended to study the full report.
What is the Framework for governance?
The framework is a guide to strategic planning for governing boards. An earlier version was developed by the Wellcome Trust in 2012 following two workshops attended by a wide range of stakeholders, including Ofsted and the DfE. The final version was created by the NGA and the Wellcome Trust, so it has wide credence as a model and would be recognised as good practice by inspectors.
The starting point for schools wishing to adopt the framework is an understanding of the three core functions of the governing body. According to the Governors' handbook, the role of the governing body is to:
- set the strategic direction
- hold the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school
- ensure financial health, probity and value for money.
What is the structure of the framework?
The framework has three elements:
- Element A: Governing principles
- Element B: Setting the strategy
- Element C: Monitoring the strategy.
The three elements are linked to the cycle of activities of the governing body. Depending on when the framework is adopted and the stage of development of the governing body, a school could start from any of the elements but would then move on to follow the cycle.
Element A: Governing principles
The NGA gives eight aspects of effective governance:
- The right people round the table
- Understanding the role and responsibilities of the governing board
- Good chairing
- Professional clerking
- Good relationships based on trust
- Knowing the school – the data, the staff, the parents, the children, the community
- Committed to asking challenging questions
- Confident to have courageous conversations in the interests of the children and young people.
The framework provides a set of detailed questions if a school wishes to audit its procedures against the governing principles.
Element B: Setting the strategy
The line between governance and management
Governance is strategic and management is operational. This distinction needs to be clearly understood by all, so that governors and trustees are not asked to, and do not try to, involve themselves in day-to-day management. Governors and trustees are there to govern, not to carry out other work within a school.
School leaders must not be micro-managed. The governing board should concentrate on matters related to strategy and school improvement, delegating to school leaders those tasks that are operational. These might include drafting policies, making judgments about teaching quality, and recruiting and deploying staff below senior leadership level.
The governing board, in partnership with the school leadership, should determine and articulate a clear vision for where they want the school or schools to be in three to five years' time. This should lead to the identification of the key strategic priorities that will drive the agenda of governing board meetings. The headteacher will be responsible for ensuring that the strategy is delivered.
Creating the strategy
Every school needs to have a long-term strategy, based on a shared vision. It is the job of the governing board, working with the headteacher and senior leaders, to agree a strategic plan for the coming three to five years. It is then the job of the senior leaders to turn the strategic plan into a school development plan, updated each year, and to implement this in practice with the support and scrutiny of governors. This is shown in diagram form on the previous page.
Element C: Monitoring the strategy
Key performance indicators (KPIs)
Key performance indicators (KPIs) define the success criteria against which progress can be measured. They will be agreed in detail between the governing board and the senior leaders, based on a shared vision of what the school is aiming to achieve (Element B). Examples of key performance indicators:
- academic achievement of all pupils
- personal development and wellbeing
- behaviour and attitudes to learning
- quality of teaching and assessment
- range of opportunities
- staff morale
- effective use of resources
- partnership with parents.
Using Ofsted grade descriptors for key performance indicators
Matching key performance indicators to the Ofsted key areas integrates monitoring and evaluation with preparation for inspection. This follows Ofsted's advice that schools should concentrate on improving educational provision and not expend effort on inspection preparation per se. This is illustrated in the table above, and there are examples matched against the grade descriptors for 'good' in the Toolkit 'Checklist – Key performance indicators using Ofsted's grade descriptors'. Schools should draw from the descriptors success criteria appropriate to their own self-evaluation grades.
- A framework for governance: A flexible guide to strategic planning, National Governors Association, January 2015: http://bit.ly/FrameworkForGovernance
- Governors' handbook, DfE, January 2015: http://bit.ly/GovernorsHandbook
- What governing boards should expect from school leaders and what school leaders should expect from governing boards, joint paper by NCSL, NAHT, LGA and NGA, 2015: http://bit.ly/GoverningBoardExpectations
Use the following items in the toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:
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