The cost-of-living crisis was recently identified as the leading cause of anxiety in young people, and the challenges they face aren’t going to go away overnight. School governors are undoubtedly be seeing the impact of poor mental health and wellbeing on attendance, behaviour and attainment in their school.
If you’d like to learn more about improving mental health in your school and how you can access a £1,200 government grant to pay for staff training click here to schedule a quick chat with a member of the Thrive Approach team.
In 15 mins Thrive can respond to your questions and offer guidance around any of the following areas that are of interest:
Accessing a £1,200 Department for Education grant for your school
Training for teaching staff to enhance attendance and behaviour management
Online tools to assess and monitor pupil mental health across the whole school
Over 3,000 strategies and activities to use in the classroom and during 1:1 support
You have just a few weeks left to access your school’s grant if you have not yet done so.
The Department for Education is offering a grant of £1,200 for eligible state-funded schools and colleges in England to start mental health lead training by 31st July 2023 – as long as they book onto a quality-assured course by 31st March.
Governors play a critical role in ensuring good pupil mental health
“The governance duty is, above all, to drive relentless ambition for the young people served by our schools’ system, whatever the circumstances.” Department for Education
Thrive can ensure teaching staff are equipped to help pupils feel safe, supported, and ready to learn. Thrive has been providing training, online assessments and expert strategies to schools for over 25 years. To date, more than 50,000 educators have received Thrive training – impacting 600,000 young lives and improving attendance, behaviour, and attainment (as well as staff wellbeing).
The economic situation is being felt in schools across the country and one of the areas of greatest impact is on the children and young people in our schools whose welfare, well-being and educational outcomes are being adversely affected by the cost-of-living crisis. This was the focus of National School Governors’ Awareness Day which took place on Tuesday, 28th February.
At Strictly Education, with the help of our partners at Governors for Schools and other governance organisations, we surveyed governors across the country to ask them of their school’s experiences of the cost-of-living crisis. The results of our survey make stark reading and many of the comments included in the feedback from over 300 governors shocked many of us, in terms of the depth of this crisis and the true extent to which it is reaching into our schools. My article in ‘Schools Week’ made clear that there were no real surprises in our findings, but the sheer scale of what our survey showed is alarming. 53% of governors and trustees, responding to our poll, said that children and young people were arriving at school hungry and 51% reported that parents and carers were struggling to afford the cost of school uniform, footwear and suitable outer clothing.
National School Governors’ Awareness Day began with a ‘Hot Topics’ session hosted by Better Governor which showcased the survey findings and apprised those in governance of the latest government school attendance data, which highlights that for the academic year to date (from September 2022) a 23.4% persistent absenteeism rate, much of which is driven by illness according to the Department for Education, but some of which is as a direct consequence of pupil anxiety, linked to the cost-of-living crisis. This theme was picked up by our partners Thrive Approach, who led a session ‘Cost of Living Anxiety: the signs to look out for’. Viv Trask-Hall and Anna Smee, from Thrive who shared some valuable data and explored the impact on children and young people’s learning of cost-of-living pressures, with a real focus on child anxiety and how governance can be supportive of meeting their pupil’s needs relating to stress, anxiety and well-being.
We were delighted to welcome Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG) to the day’s programme and the first of two lunchtime sessions was presented by Kate Anstey. Kate’s session spotlighted data which demonstrates the scale of the challenges that schools face in terms of poverty and its impact. A startling example of this is that 800,000 pupils in England alone, who are living in poverty, do not get free school meals. As governors we all know that hungry children will struggle to learn and schools have to find often-illusive funds to support vulnerable children and young people, to simply make learning a possibility. The initial feedback to National School Governors’ Awareness Day, from those involved in school governance, indicates that whilst the content was alarming, the CPAG session was thought provoking and hugely informative.
The National Governance Association led a valuable session for us spotlighting some of the resources that they produce to support governing boards in addressing most aspects of vulnerability of pupils in our schools. The theme of the day is of course one that all boards should be focused on at present and the NGA’s message was perfectly aligned to this.
The country’s first ever Professor of Social Mobility, Professor Lee Elliot Major from University of Exeter, led a thought-provoking and inspiring session exploring some of the longer-term societal implications of the current cost of living crisis. Lee talked about disadvantage and equity in our schools and the impact they have on pupil outcomes and life chances. He shared some examples of strategies that schools have and can employ to tackle disadvantage and he certainly generated a huge volume of questions from attendees.
Our key partner for this year’s National School Governors’ Awareness Day, Governors for Schools, led two webinars, during the day, on recruiting governors in 2023, and Introduction to School Governance. These two sessions fitted perfectly with our aim of celebrating governance and raising its profile due to the shortage of school governors with up to 25,000 positions vacant at any given time*. The sessions also highlighted that without governors, who are informed, and prioritise their own professional development, our schools risk missing out on the invaluable external perspective and sense of challenge that governance brings.
The marathon event, that was National School Governors’ Awareness Day ended with a Question Time event, which I hosted, included Hannah Stolton, CEO of Governors for Schools, Viv-Trask-Hall from Thrive, Emma Knights, CEO of the NGA and Jackie Eason, from the Confederation of School Trusts. It was a lively session with some challenging questions, which were well-fielded by our panel of experts and covered all aspects of the day.
We had more than 800 governors, trustees and clerks/governance professionals register for National School Governors’ Awareness Day (NSGAD). We were thrilled at the commitment of all involved in school governance who joined us and we have now created, in our Knowledge Hub, on the National School Governors’ Awareness Day website, access to all recordings of the days events, which are freely accessible to all.
By Steve Barker Head of Governance Services - Strictly Education
Since 1999, Governors for Schools has supported schools to find skilled governors across England, extending our vital work into Wales in 2020. With over a third of schools in England having one or more vacancies on their governing boards, our work has never been more important. During 2022, we helped just over 2,000 volunteers join school boards, a number upon which we strive to build.
We’ve refined our expertise in governor recruitment over the past 20 years and are continuing to improve how we support the sector. Our Trustee Recruitment Service launched in response to sector need, and our resources for schools have been created based on the needs and feedback of our volunteers. Working collaboratively with other governor networks, we have gained valuable insights into the sector, including the key challenges facing schools right now. As such, we can use this knowledge to appoint volunteers who meet your school’s needs.
Some of the challenges facing school boards include a lack of governor diversity, limited succession planning, and skills gaps among members. Fortunately, Governors for Schools is on-hand to ensure the volunteers we find, meet your needs.
Do you have challenges with…
We encourage school governing boards to recognise the benefits of diversity and appoint governors from a variety of backgrounds. Diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background ensures boards are reflective of the communities they serve. We work with schools to identify needs before we put forward volunteers. We also work with schools to showcase volunteers they may not ordinarily consider, such as younger volunteers under the age of 25. As demonstrated in our recent governor story with Will Bellamy, early-career volunteers can bring fresh and valuable perspectives to school boards. Sadly, sometimes age can be seen as a limiting factor in a volunteer, and we work with schools to show that it doesn’t have to be this way.
Is your chair about to step down? Have you considered how you can maintain a strong leadership structure for your board? We ask prospective volunteers to share their leadership experience, ensuring we spot potential chairs and vice chairs at the application stage. As you prepare to bid a fond farewell to your chair, we can help you find the best possible successor. We’ve also worked with the National Governance Association (NGA) on their report around finding a chair, which offers helpful guidance on succession planning.
Skill gaps on your board?
Are you confident that your board possesses all the skills it needs to support school leaders? Conducting a skills audit can help you identify skill gaps and address them by organising training or filling vacancies with the right volunteers. If you register a vacancy with Governors for Schools, we can screen volunteers for the skills your board needs.
Some schools face geographic challenges when it comes to appointing members to a board. Fortunately, Governors for Schools is happy to support schools to source remote governors. There are many benefits to remote governance, and you can benefit from a wider talent pool. Read more about the benefits of remote governance on our blog.
Do you need support recruiting a governor? Want to ask us a specific recruitment question?
Register your vacancy with Governors for Schools and a member of our friendly team will be in touch to discuss your needs. We support with both governor and trustee recruitment.
Sign up for National School Governors’ Awareness Day, and at 10am – 11am Governors for Schools will be hosting a bespoke session showcasing how we can help you recruit a volunteer governor or trustee in 2023. We’ll be taking questions live in the session, so don’t miss out.
With National School Governors’ Awareness Day taking place on 28th February, it seems appropriate to reflect on a question I am often asked. My friends, family and colleagues know I am a school governor, but most don’t have clarity on what that means: they don’t know; what school governors do, why governors exist, or what is expected of them.
I have been a governor for many years and have honed my elevator speech, in response the perennial question. Just in case I find myself in an express lift, I can now expound my role, and that of other school governors, in an economic four words. Governors, ensure through seeking assurance.
I realise that for some that requires a little further explanation, which I am happy to provide, but still insisting that these four words do very accurately describe what governance is all about. Governors are at times described as the guardians of their schools and academy trusts and the idea that we are guardians of all that our schools are and do is a good start point. We ensure, as governors and trustees, that our schools are providing the best possible learning and the best possible care for pupils, staff and our communities. The seeking assurance is crucial to understanding the governance role and is helpful when describing expectations to prospective governors. Seeking assurance describes the way in which governance operates and more importantly points to what we do not get involved in. Governance is strategic and effective school governance has an accurate strategic overview of the school and its work, achieved, not by getting operationally involved in the day-to-day working of the school, but through focussing on the big picture. The big picture should include assurance that pupils are making good progress in their learning, are safe, happy and developing as responsible young people ready being prepared for the next stage of their lives.
How we seek assurance is determined through the structures we have in place in governance and through our monitoring and evaluation of the school’s work and its impact. A number of governing bodies and trust boards now operate a flat structure, where the main board meets every half term and the agenda covers all elements of the school’s work that governance should have oversight of, including pupil progress, the curriculum, safeguarding, pupil attendance, staffing, mental health and well-being, premises issues and many more aspects that inform the strategic overview of school effectiveness. In many schools and most trust boards the workload is divided up and delegated to committees of governors. Committees should all have delegated terms of reference, detailing precisely what they do including any decision making that the board has given them the responsibility for. But the core task is the same; the committee ensures by seeking assurance.
There is an expectation on all governors and trustees that they regularly reflect on their collective and individual professional development (i.e. training) needs. This ensures they stay abreast of the aspects of the governance role that they need to focus on and are aware of the statutory framework that underpins much of the task of governance. Compliance, with the legal framework, is the backbone of governance and as with all other aspects of our role, our task is to seek assurance that our schools are compliant.
The education system in this country is more diverse than ever before, but whether we are governors in a maintained school, or in an academy trust, whether we are governors, directors or trustees, or operate at a local school level within a trust, governance is governance and whilst the scope may vary a little, the essence of governance remains the same. We ensure that our schools and trusts are providing the best possible learning and the best possible care, for all pupils. It is this modus operandi that allows to meet the expectations that government and demonstrates that we are collectively holding our schools to account.
Since 1999, Governors for Schools has played an important role in supporting schools to find skilled volunteers across England. In 2021, we expanded our important work into Wales. During the 2021 – 2022 academic year, we supported 1962 people onto school boards and our mission has never been more important, with over a third of schools in England having one or more vacancy on their governing board.
In advance of National School Governors' Awareness Day, Governors for Schools CEO Hannah Stolton shares her thanks to all volunteers.
‘Governors for Schools is delighted to be a lead partner for National School Governors' Awareness Day. It is a privilege to be able to celebrate the important work of governors across the nation and we share a very sincere thank you to all governance volunteers across the sector for their commitment.’
We’re proud supporters of National School Governor Awareness Day 2023, and are looking forward to working with Strictly Education to deliver an exciting day of useful and informative webinars. Make sure to follow us on social media - we’ll be sharing content and live tweeting during the sessions.
You can reach us at @SchoolGovNet on Twitter.
Interested in becoming a governor?
Start your governor journey today. Being a school governor can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, allowing you to contribute your skills and expertise to help guide the direction and decision-making of a school.
Governors for Schools will match your skillset to a school in need, so you can be sure you’re having a positive impact and making a difference to children. We’ll support you every step of the way.
Do you need support recruiting a governor?
Register your vacancy with Governors for Schools and a member of our friendly team will be in touch to discuss your needs. We support with both governor and trustee recruitment, so if you need our support – please reach out. We would be delighted to help you.
Between December 2021 and January 2022, we canvassed the members of Better Governor for their opinions on a range of hot topics. The results highlighted how concerned school governors were with workload issues and the well-being of staff in their schools, with 90% regarding it as a significant issue..
89% believe well-being should be a recurring item on the agenda at Governing Body meetings and 61% felt that 'Thank you' messages and special treats such as sweets and cakes have a positive impact. But only 24% say an employee assistance programme would be welcomed.
Save and share this useful infographic of the data from the Better Governor survey.
Higher Level Teaching Assistant (HLTA) is a nationally recognised status that can dramatically impact schools in a variety of ways. Those involved in governance in maintained schools and academies should be aware of the status and its far-reaching benefits to school communities.
HLTA status recognises the contribution and impact that teaching assistants (TA) can make to effective teaching and learning in schools. Those with HLTA status have met an agreed national standard and demonstrated their ability to work at a higher level than that expected of a TA, providing evidence of competence in delivery to whole classes without the presence of teacher.
HLTA status first and foremost can provide a career progression route for Teaching Assistants, who otherwise may not have any options to advance in their career within a school or trust.
Many schools have deployed those with HLTA status to supervise classes or groups of pupils covering Planning Preparation and Assessment (PPA) time. One of the clear advantages of this strategy, apart from it’s cost effectiveness, is that it enables schools to utilise their own staff, who are familiar to the pupils and who know the pupils well, rather than commission external providers, such as sports coaches to cover PPA. Commissioning Sports Coaches can compromise the school or trust’s use of its PE and Sport Premium, as the use of external providers makes it challenging to demonstrate how this is improving the school’s long term ability to deliver an effective physical education curriculum.
Those with HLTA often have specialist interests such as sport and art, but especially in secondary schools develop skills and have the experience to support high quality teaching in specialist subjects such as science and technology.
Covid-19 and the school closures that it has led to, has witnessed school budgets being further squeezed, with lost lettings other revenue streams, which for many could continue throughout the term. A modest investment enabling those among your existing teaching assistants to acquire HLTA status could be advantageous to your school/trust on all of these levels. For more information please contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Governance in academy trusts operates at a number of levels and for it to be effective it is crucial that Members, Trustees, and those involved in governance at local level in multi-academy trusts, all understand their role and responsibilities
In this article, the first of three that we will publish, over coming weeks, outlining the roles of Members, Trustees, and local governors, we are focussing on the role and responsibilities of Academy Trustees.
Because academy trusts are structured in a very specific way, as Charitable Companies Limited by Guarantee, governance at board level has three functions:
Trustees – because the Academy Trust is a charity,
Directors – because the trust is a company
Governors – because the academy/academies are schools.
The Department for Education (DfE) and the Education & Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) refer to us as Trustees and the 2021 Academy Trust Handbook follows this same line though in practice boards can, and do, refer to themselves using all three names. The key point is that it is not about what we refer to ourselves as, since we do wear all three hats, but it is crucial that we understand our role and responsibilities.
Trustees are, due to the status of academies as charitable companies, must comply with Company Law, the charitable object of the trust, statutory regulations that are applicable to academies, and the contractual obligations that the trust has in under its Funding Agreement with the DfE.
Compliance is therefore a significant responsibility of trustees and boards should ensure that they have robust structures and procedures in place to assure them that they do comply with their statutory duties and responsibilities. An effective professional clerk is essential and whilst they do not sit on the board, they do provide essential advice and guidance to trustees and play a vital role in supporting the board to organise it’s work and ensure all aspects of compliance are addressed.
The governance function of trustees is the same as that of governors in maintained schools and has three core functions, as the DfE refers to them:
Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the effective and efficient performance management of staff;
Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.
These core functions go beyond compliance and root the trustee role firmly within the realms of education and care. It is vital that Trustees do not lose site of the prime focus of schools, that of ensuring children and young people make progress in their learning and that they are safe, and their well-being is being promoted.
Trust Boards should never forget that they are the Governing Body for their trust and whilst schemes of delegation share tasks linked to responsibilities with those involved in governance in schools within the trust or with individuals, it is the Trust Board, the trustees collectively who are accountable and ultimately responsible. Trustees must ensure that they have effective strategic oversight of all aspects of the trust’s, and those schools within it, if it is a multi-academy trust, work. Trustees need to have oversight of Teaching and Learning, Safeguarding, Health and Safety and all other aspects of the trust’s work if they are to be effective and discharge their duties effectively. In multi-academy trusts, this will include monitoring of key performance indicators for all schools within the trust.
In too many multi academy trusts, trustees do not always see themselves as governors and don’t always engage in training and professional development. It is crucial that they recognise all three roles and meet the expectations of them all. For governance of academy trusts to be truly effective Trustees should ensure their knowledge is up to date on all aspects of their role and this necessitates engagement in their own development.