Knowledge Hub

Governors’ thoughts on well-being and workload

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 status

By Strictly Education 4S

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.

Higher Level Teaching Assistant at work

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:

Understanding the role of Trustees

From: Better Governor

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.

The role of trustees

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.

Better Governor loo

Getting involved – how the chair can motivate governors to participate

By: Linda Waghorn, Governance Consultant

Governance is, above all else, a collective responsibility and therefore the process of governance requires all governors/trustees to engage and participate, for it to be effective.

I am currently the Chair of a Local Governing board at a school in West Sussex that is part of a small local Multi Academy Trust. In the past I have chaired governing boards in a variety of other settings and all chairing roles I have held have taught me that a vital aspect of my role, and of chairs in all boards, is to ensure they are inclusive of all governors and encourage and promote active engagement in the process of governance and of course full participation in all meetings.

The starting point is always to ensure that anyone considering becoming a governor fully understands what they are volunteering for: volunteering to become a governor is not about wearing a badge, it is about making a commitment to actively support and champion the learning and care of all children and young people in your school. Governors need to understand what governance is and, of course, what it is not. Many aspiring governors are driven by the desire to ‘give something back’ providing an excellent platform on which to build a deeper knowledge of the role.

I have always made a point of talking to prospective governors and explaining what governance is, the expectations that we have of each other and those that statutory regulations impose on us. I am also keen to outline how much time we are asking governors to give to the role. Dependant on the way the governing board is structured can make a difference to the time commitment we ask governors to sign up to but in a typical set up, where there are no committees, and the full board meets every half term, we are talking of a time commitment, involving reading papers, attending meetings, visiting the school, and accessing training for the role of roughly 35-50 hours a year.

I am always keen to work with my vice-chair and other governors to support the induction of new governors. It doesn’t need to be a formal mentoring scheme, although I have seen these work exceptionally well in many schools that do operate them. It can be less formal and simply be another relatively new governor who can support and encourage them to get involved right from the start of their term of office. Most governors serve a four-year term of office and doing all that we can, at individual board level, to ensure new governors quickly ascend what can appear to be a steep learning curve, is a worthwhile investment in pushing effective governance forward.

Apart from making it clear that our board expects all governors to engage in training to ensure their professional development, as a governor, equips them for their role, I try to ensure that our meetings are clear, the agenda maps out the meeting effectively, and that minutes provide an accurate summary/overview of what has been discussed and agreed. We try to avoid abbreviations and acronyms, which education is peppered with, or at least explain what they mean.

Every board is made up of unique individuals and it is important to develop an understanding of everyone’s strengths and development needs to ensure the board works collectively as a team. I encourage all governors to ask questions; not only is this the best demonstration of our accountability function as governors, but it is a great opportunity to deepen governors’ learning about their school and the broader educational and governance landscape. I’m not the sort of chair who revels in putting individuals on the spot, but I ensure I am aware of who is and who is not participating and will have what I hope is a quiet and sensitive word, outside of the meeting, to explore what we can do to make them feel comfortable and confident in asking questions and participate fully. For me a key element of this is to focus on the culture of the board itself. How welcoming do we appear to new governors, do we ensure they are warmly welcomed and at initial meetings does the chair explain, for the benefit of new governors, what is being discussed and why.

I see my role, as chair, very much as an enabler or facilitator. Yes, I lead governance within my school but in meetings, whilst I lead the agenda and ensure a smooth-running effective meeting, I try to not lead the discussion and assert my view first. I try to encourage others to contribute to open and frank discussions, so that a full spectrum of views and opinions is considered, which will inform more effective decision making and ultimately more effective governance. I want every board member to feel that they play a vital role in our governance team.

Linda Waghorn - Governance Consultant