SCHOOLS NorthEast, the first & only UK regional network of schools, hosts its Regional Governance Conference on Thursday 30 March at Durham County Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street.
Tracey Booth MBE, Chair of Governors at Churchill Community College, shares her thoughts on school governance and how schools across the North East can work together to improve opportunities for young people.
To put it simply, school governance is about implementing a clear set of structures and processes that ensure we’re working in the best interest of our students. As school governors we have a duty to ensure that, in partnership with the leadership team, we’re working towards better outcomes and opportunities for each individual student.
School governance and school management is not the same thing but they can often be confused. School governors have a holistic view of the organisation and it’s our role to set out the vision for the school and agree the strategic objectives.
One of the ways we do this is using data, as this can give us an accurate picture of how the school, teachers and students are performing. It’s also our role to question the data and make sure it matches with what we’re seeing on the ground. A huge part of good school governance is listening to what teachers, students and parents are telling us.
There are specific qualities and skills I think make a good school governor, the most important one is a genuine passion to improve education for all children, regardless of their ability or background. I also think it’s important to gather a team of confident and knowledgeable people that will hold the school executive team to task and ask the difficult questions that will lead change.
It might come as a surprise to many people but having experience of working in the education sector is not a requirement to be a school governor. In fact many people join from other areas of industry. The most important factor is having the skills and time that will ultimately benefit the students.
This is an area that will be discussed at length at the SCHOOLS North East regional governance conference in March. How do we attract and retain good school governors? The key is finding people with integrity that will challenge schools on their performance. The goal is to raise standards and improve opportunities for students, not just in school, but in their working lives too.
Like any area of industry we have challenges to face. These range from finance to the wider education landscape but for me, recruitment is paramount. Governing bodies should reflect the student population and that’s why it’s so important we have a varied and diverse school governing body that’s representative of the local community. New people bring fresh ideas and that’s really important.
Another way we can improve school governance across the board is by working in collaboration. There are always areas for improvement and that’s why institutions that are rated outstanding by Ofsted continue to find ways to better themselves. Sharing ideas and best practice means we can all look at ways of improving our schools.
Of course school governance isn’t just about looking after students in school. We have a duty to ensure they are ready for the world of work and that’s why it has an important role to play in the wider economic landscape. Students need to make informed and educated choices about their future and be equipped with the skills industry demands.
That’s why initiatives like the North East LEP’s Good Career Guidance Benchmarks pilot are so important. I know it’s made a huge difference at Churchill Community College where I’m chair of governors. It’s enabled us to engage with employers in the region to understand what skills businesses need and bring that knowledge into our school.
When we began this work we assessed ourselves as meeting three of the eightbenchmarks because they talked about ‘all and every child’. We are about to reassess at eight out of eight. As the pilot comes to an end this year we know we are in a better place to prepare young people for the world of work. We will now seek to embed this work and support other governing bodies to do the same.
We also use the North Tyneside Learning Trust to support awareness of careers from early years through to age 18 as part of our ‘World of Work’ programme, which supports 45 schools in North Tyneside with our trust governors as advocates. This draws in a wide range of employers and experiences of work for our young people.
We see how important it is to support student aspiration towards high skill, high wage employment wherever we can. We use labour market information to help young people make informed choices of career routes. We have a responsibility to drive down Not in Education, Employment, or Training figures to zero and ensure young people stay in these career routes for three years after leaving us. We link in employer governors through our trust network to inspire the next generation of workers.
I’ve spent 15 years as a school governor and the reason I do it is to make sure young people in my community have the best possible chance in life. It’s what motivates me everyday.
By Tracey Booth MBE
Chair of Governors at Churchill Community College
The SCHOOLS NorthEast Regional Governance Conference takes place on Thursday 30 March at Durham County Cricket Club, Chester-le-Street. For more information about the conference and SCHOOLS NorthEast, visit www.schoolsnortheast.com