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The Governor’s Role in Headteacher Performance Management

In a previous Thought Leadership article, we looked at the Governor’s responsibilities for staff performance management. This forms part of our strategic duties, as our responsibility as Governors is to make sure performance management is done fairly and equitably across all staff.

Now let’s take a look at our responsibilities for Headteacher Performance Management - a whole different kettle of fish! For a start, it is a ‘doing’ role, so very much sits in the operational side of our duties rather than strategic. But hold your horses, I hear to cry – we are always told that our role is strategic and not operational, and Ofsted look very careful at those separation of duties. Well, you’re quite right, and whilst Headteacher performance management is something we have to actually do rather than think about, get it right and it assists us in our strategic duties.

As with staff performance management, the responsibility for Headteacher Performance Management varies between maintained Schools and Academies and actually differs within different Academy Trust chains. Within the maintained sector, Governors are the Employers in Law, so the chain of command is from the Headteacher to the Governors, so a direct responsibility for Governors. Within Academies, the Headteacher’s line of command is the CEO as part of the Trust Board, so no direct reporting structure to the Local Governing Board. But look carefully at your Scheme of Delegation and it will tell you how much responsibility Governors have in the process. You will find it varies between none at all – all is done by the Trust Board - to very little difference to the maintained sector in that autonomy is devolved to the Local Governing Board.

Once again, for the sake of this article, let’s assume that responsibility has been given to the Local Governing Board, so feel free to switch off now if this article does not apply to you. Still with us? Great, let’s crack on.

There needs to be a Committee to take care of Headteacher Performance Management. The Committee is generally made up of three Governors, but can vary depending on the make-up of your Governing Board, whether you are a Church School, etc. There needs to be a Chair of the Committee and Terms of Reference. One of the most important factors is that this is a confidential Committee – the minutes or outcomes cannot be shared with other members of the Governing Board. More of that later.

So, you’ve decided who will be on the Committee, next is to make sure they are trained accordingly. There needs to be at least one Governor who can hear an appeal and it is good practice that this Governor is also trained. The next stage is to appoint an External Advisor to the Governors, who can act as a professional facilitator for the process. A word of warning here, the External Advisor MUST be appointed by the Governors and not by the Headteacher. This person has got to be independent; you are deciding on the salary scale of the most highly paid member of your staff, so it has to be carried out transparently. Ofsted will take a very dim view if they find out the Headteacher has appointed their mate as External Advisor!

Now it’s time for the meeting itself, which will be made up of three stages. Firstly, the External Advisor will meet with the Headteacher. Prior to the meeting, the Advisor will have been in touch with the Headteacher and will have requested evidence to show if targets have been met or not. At this stage of the meeting, the Advisor will be testing the evidence presented by the Headteacher. They will also be having a discussion about possible targets for the next academic year.

The second stage is for the Governors to meet with the External Advisor. The Advisor will present to the Governors the evidence and will be able to advise whether in their opinion targets have been met or not. They will also discuss the targets for the next academic year and facilitate the decisions by the Governors.

Finally, the Headteacher will join the meeting with the Governors and the External Advisor. The Chair of the Committee will sum up the discussions, discuss whether targets have been met or not and will agree the targets for the next academic year, what success looks like and what evidence they will expect to be presented.

As a decision is required as to whether to award a salary increase to the Headteacher, it is vital that prior to the meeting, the Chair of the Committee knows the pay point that the Headteacher is currently on and what the pay scale is for the post. If the Headteacher is at the top of their pay scale then even if they have smashed the targets, a pay award cannot be awarded unless the pay scale is changed. This can be done but there needs to be a strong business case for doing so. Assuming a salary increase can be awarded, this Committee can only recommend, they cannot give the pay award. Only the Full Governing Board can give the pay award, so the process has to be the Committee recommends to the Full Governing Board, and the full Governing Board ratifies.

But you may have spotted a problem – this is a confidential Committee so how can the Full Governing Board ratify a decision when they do not know the details. All that can be said is whether the Headteacher has met the targets or not and Governors need to accept the recommendations of the Committee.

Headteacher Performance Management is the most important process that Governors are involved in. As in staff performance management, the process revolves around an assumption of no surprises, so there need to be regular review meetings with the Headteacher to ensure targets are still valid and achievable. These review meetings do not need to include the External Advisor.

If you wish to find out more about Headteacher Performance Management, then please contact our Governor Services team at Entrust at governors@entrust-ed.co.uk 

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