There’s nothing more soul crushing than eagerly awaiting your school’s exam results, only to be disappointed. Now you know you’ll have Ofsted on your back, and the Local Authority before you even think about the disappointed parents and kids.
What’s done is done. But what can you do about it now to make next year an altogether better experience?
1) Look very closely at your assessment systems
Was this result expected? If it comes as a surprise to everyone, including senior management, then it suggests there’s some serious management flaws there, especially with assessment. An effective assessment system should give senior management a very good idea of how the children will perform. If they’re way out that means they possibly don’t have a strong idea of what good teaching is, that they may have been ploughing interventions into the wrong kids and they may not have chosen the best courses for the kids in the first place.
2) Drill Deep
A general average of your GCSE results can often hide massive variation between different teachers and departments. Pinpoint the areas where you’ve excelled, and where you’ve not done as well as you hoped. You need to make sure a robust strategy’s in place for dealing with those poorly performing departments, including capability proceedings if necessary. No-one likes to be tough, but at the same time these are children’s futures we’re playing with and no-one gets into governing to make children’s lives worse!
3) Be Wary of Excuses
You may hear any number of excuses and reasons why performance wasn’t as good as expected. Evaluate each of them very carefully to see if they hold water. “This cohort just wasn’t as good as last year’s” is always a favourite – but with a functioning assessment system in place everyone should have expected those results.
4) Don’t Duck the Hard Calls
Ultimately to radically improve your GCSE results is going to take strong leadership. If your leadership team has been in place for some time making little headway you have to confront the problem head on. The local authority can be a good source of advice here. They’ll be impressed that your aware of the situation, because I promise you they will be. If ultimately you need a change of leadership to drive your school forward, the sooner the better.
Just remember as well that you can do it. Lots of schools go through rough periods and come out stronger and better. But it doesn’t happen overnight and it can often be a bit rough – such is the joy of being a school governor.
I was interviewing for a sales post this morning, and on the guy’s CV I’d noticed that he’d been a governor while still a student at his school. He was over 18 and had full voting rights, just like any other governor.
What an interesting approach to student voice I thought – is this something anyone’s tried anywhere else?
Does Best Value really just mean getting 3 quotes and picking the cheapest/best?
I’m reading a really interesting book at the moment called Secrets of Power Negotiating and it’s been making me think how useful negotiating skills could be as part of a school’s efforts to get better value for money.
Some of the techniques it talks about aren’t exactly rocket science and many you’ll be aware of before – but put together there are a lot of tools there for squeezing a bit more money out of suppliers. Here’s just a few highlights:
- Get the other side to commit first
- Ask for more than you expect to get
- Flinch (visibly) at proposals
- Never say yes to the first offer
- Play the reluctant buyer, no matter how desparate you are
- Always ask them to do better than that
- Play good cop / bad cop
- Claim to be constrainted by a vague higher authority (say … the board of governors!)
- Revisit areas you couldn’t agree on earlier when you’ve almost made your deal
- If you really can, threaten to walk away
My bet: a day’s training on negotiating skills for you and your senior managers would be repaid many times over.
It’s the nightmare scenario.
You pass by the newsagent, just to see the local rag’s billboard outside: “Your school in shock incident.”
So when people write bad things about your school, how do you make sure you know about it first? Fortunately there’s an easy tool out there, that’s really simple to set up and free called Google Alerts. Essentially, every time your school name or a word or phrase of your choice is mentioned on the web you’ll get an email to let you know. Since Google also indexes sites like Facebook and Twitter you’ll also get notified if your school gets mentioned on there too.
Simply head to the Google Alerts page, type in the term you want to monitor, fill in the remaining options and press Create Alert to set up. You can set up more or less as many of these as you want. Don’t forget if you want to search only for a specific phrase (e.g. XYZ High School) then put speech marks around it to make sure you only get notified when that phrase appears.
And that’s it, done! Now just to make sure the rag’s got nothing to write about in the first place…
Whilst we’re on the subject of training … if you’re putting together an induction programme for your governing body, why redo work that’s already been done?
Equally you’ll find it useful for looking for model policies, advice and all other things relating to governance.
My last post on this theme stressed the importance of professional development for your governing body, and planning and evaluating it effectively.
But it was a bit light on the actual delivery of it, and here’s an idea of how to use Teachers TV to help train your governors.
Why not ask all of your governors, in the papers before your next meeting, to watch a Teachers TV video you specify. As you ask them, you could also get them to consider a few starter questions such as:
- What was the thing you found most interesting?
- How does this affect our school?
- What, if anything, do we need to do in light of this?
Then assign the first 15 minutes of each full governors session to discussing it, coming to an action plan of any things we need to make sure happen.
Or equally you could use this time for people who’ve attended local authority training sessions to feed back what they’ve learnt from the courses they’ve attended.
That may not be to everyone’s cup of tea, but giving yourself 15 minutes each meeting to develop the governor team will allow you to use Teachers TV in a focussed way, making sure that everyone actually watches and benefits, whilst developing productive discussion about your school’s priorities and direction at the same time!
Many governors have only ever seen schools from one side of the desk, and how to develop educational knowledge and understanding is always a key challenge for governing bodies. A governing body’s diversity is its main source of strength, and this new series of articles will show you how to train your governors up to be the best in the business!
There are three key elements to professional development:
But sadly often the focus is solely on delivery, with very little of the first or last ever really happening.
So in this first post, let’s look at how to plan and evaluate effective delivery.
Step 1 – What Do Your Governors Need to Know?
In a school situation, you’d start this process with the National Occupational Standards or the Professional Standards which set out exactly what the good teacher needs to know.
As far as I’m aware nothing similar exists for governors, although there is quite a detailed list in the competencies required from finance governors that goes along with FMSIS. It’s probably a good idea to go through this process individually and for each school anyway. Each school is different, and is faced by different challenges. You can certainly get ideas of some of the key issues by having a look through the governing training offered by your LA or Teachers TV.
There’s a real benefit to doing this process around the time each year you revise your school improvement plan. If your school has an action point to improve its use of data in assessment for example, it makes a lot of sense
Step 2 – What do Your Governors Actually Know?
After you’ve got your list of what governors need to know, you need to get to grips with what they actually know. The easy way to do this is to give out a survey and get them to rate themselves, perhaps moderated by yourself. Or equally you can hold a one-to-one interview to chat through the various areas and see where they’d benefit from development.
Step 3 – What Will the Best Development Be?
Next step is to plan the training and development that will help get your governors up to scratch. The Local Authority Training sessions will be a good place to start, but you will want a mixture of different methods depending on the importance of the issue and how widespread the requirement is. Here are some training methods listed below that you might wish to consider:
- Local Authority training sessions
- Whole governing body development sessions
- Coaching and mentoring from existing experienced people on the governing body
- Shadowing teachers / senior managers at school in certain tasks
- Teachers TV and other sources of elearning
Step 4 – Implementing and Evaluating
It’s easy for training to fall by the wayside, but you need to make sure that your training plan gets implemented. Maybe check it off at each full governing body meeting to make sure that every governor has done the alloted training. There’ll be more on how to make training stick in the next post on this topic.
And after it is all set and done, don’t forget evaluation. Even if you’ve identified the right needs, found the people with those needs, sourced the training as best as you can – if it didn’t have impact at the end of the day it was all for nothing.
Measuring the impact of training is famously difficult, but there are two key areas you should be looking at:
- Impression of the event
- Impact on practice
You could try and get each governor to feed back to full governors for 5 minutes at each session on what the course had covered, how it was useful for us and whether they’d recommend it to others and why. Then the real acid test is next time you perform the training needs analysis process next year – are your governors more secure in the knowledge than they were last year.
Hopefully the answer will be yes, and you’ll be well on your way to having the best governors in the business!
Ah yes, the SATs boycott. I remember everyone getting worried about that.
But the actual thing itself turned out to be a bit of a damp squib. Less schools participated than had originally been forecast (the BBC had it at around 15%) and the boycott itself just got lost in all the election and post-election dealmaking coverage.
And now that it’s gone it seems that Gove et al are happy to pretend it never happened. He certainly seems pretty determined to keep the league tables that publish the data from SATs.
In my view, forgetting it ever happened would be no bad thing. Not that I have strong views either way, but it was certainly a sticky situation for governors involved.
As a reader of this blog, you’ve probably been closely watching the twists and turns of this new coalition government’s education policy. But this new video from Teachers TV, published only a few days ago, is a very helpful summary and would make good CPD for other members of your governing body.
Which makes me think – how many people out there use Teachers TV in a structured way to help their governing body’s CPD, and how do you use it?
It’s like New Labour on steroids.
The Academies programme, that up till now had been the preserve of inner city failing secondary schools, is to be blasted open. Any school can now apply simply to become one on the DfE’s website, and while it’s all still a little vague the impression is that outstanding schools will just be waved through.
A recent article in the TES said that up to half the country’s outstanding schools had already registered an interest, should you join them?
For those of you who aren’t yet sure what an academy is:
- They’re independent, publicly funded schools
- They are free from local authority control – your money comes direct from the DfE
- You’re able to set your own pay and conditions for staff
- You don’t need to follow the national curriculum
- You’re able to change the length of terms and school days
So what’s the catch?
Well, without local authority control you’ll also be without local authority support – if that matters to you. Equally it seems there will be some strings attached, that you may need to take a failing school under your wing so to speak.
But providing that doesn’t spook you, academy status provides an amazing opportunity for truly outstanding schools. You don’t need the guidance and the strictures, you can go your own way, innovate and create something spectacular. And if that doesn’t get you excited we might as well all go home now.
If you want to take it forward as a governing body, you can register on the DfE’s website and they’ll send you some information. The Specialist Schools and Academies Trust are also running events if you’d prefer something face to face.
You can also see a Q and A session with Michael Gove on the plans here.