The Perpetual Learning Curve
In late 2016 Ofsted published a report called Improving School Governance. This report states that when inspectors judge the leadership and management of a school to be less than good, a common underlying weakness is the failure of governors to hold school leaders to account. Since this report was published the DfE launched the Competency Framework for Governance; a document which many governors are already familiar with. One of the competencies identified is about managing self-review and development (Competency 6a) and this short article offers some ‘hints and tips’ to help focus both the board and individual ‘governance learning’. Here we use the term CPD (Continuing Professional Development) as catch all phrase to cover all types of governor training, self-directed learning, face to face sessions, mandated webinars i.e. those you are required to do such as safeguarding. Having a positive, proactive, and pragmatic approach to CPD helps to promote a culture of learning and curiosity across the board; after all curiosity is one of the 7 Cs of governance…
1. Make sure training and development for governors is a standing full board agenda item. At its most simple this is about governors being informed about the training and development sessions on offer; usually by the local authority, governance service provider, or your Multi-Academy Trust. At a deeper level this gives the opportunity to share your learning with the other governors and trustees.
2. Ask the clerk (or a governor) to keep a record. Get into the habit of letting other people know when you have been to some training; this can include attending online webinars; face to face sessions, training through work. You can update your learning online on GovernorHub or Trust Governor software for example
3. Whilst Induction or welcome to governance training is not mandatory it is regarded as very good practise for new governors to participate in induction training.
4. What does the skills audit tell you? A skills audit should be kept ‘live’; revisited often and used to signpost where the gaps in knowledge and skills are at any given point. Completing and analysing a skills audit once a year is good practice. Think about what you do with the information - do you actively use it to plan or is it merely a tick box exercise?
5. After the learning - do you have a short template governors and trustees can fill in when they have undertaken training like they do when they have undertaken a link visit? These don't have to be complicated but are great way of collecting evidence to show that training has taken place.
6. Taking the time to evaluate your CPD is important. What did you learn? Did the CPD confirm or affirm your existing knowledge and understanding? Did it help you reflect, or did it offer new approaches? Remember, measuring the impact of your learning should be not a collaborative discussion with the other governors as well as helping you as an individual governor or trustee learn more about your role.
7. Share any opportunities and articles you find (but unless you are willing to pay for your own CPD – and that opens up a totally different conversation – then please do not book until you have approval from the budget holder).
8. Don’t forget to invite the clerk. If you are holding a CPD event for your board why not ask the clerk if they would like to attend – there is no expectation that they can or will, but the invitation shows that you consider the clerk to be part of your governance team. You can also reasonably ask the clerk what training or CPD they have undertaken, can they recommend anything and what do they think would be useful and interesting for the board to read. Some clerks include a suggested reading list as part of the agenda!
9. Undertake research – The Education Endowment Foundation has published guidance on becoming an evidence-informed school governor and trustee which contains a range of useful ideas.
10. And finally – make a plan; keep the skills gaps in mind but be curious, pro-active and follow your interests; you never know where you will end up!
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