Ofsted chief calls for paid school governors
The Guardian |February 27, 2013
Sir Michael Wilshaw has, once again, criticised the professionalism of school governors by asserting that a lack of pay equates to a lack of ability to carry out the role. Whilst not all school governors consistently work effectively for the good of the schools that they serve this should not be used as a stick with which to beat all the hard-working school governors up and down the country. It is also worrying that he is advocating an increased role for so called ‘professionals’ while simultaneously minimising the use of volunteers from the local community. In a climate of shrinking community volunteer places on boards of governors through the Coalition’s Academies and Free Schools programme this plan will simply further remove local and democratic accountability in the primary and secondary education system. There is far more to running a school than looking at figures on a report card; using paid governors who have no wider understanding of the school in question and no long-term interest in or knowledge of the local community is not the way forward.
Businesses should order staff to become governors at their local schools, the Ofsted chief inspector has said.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said more professionalism was needed among school governors, and again suggested that some should be paid for their work.
His comments came as he announced every primary and secondary school in England would be handed an annual report card detailing their exam results and attendance rates.
The one-page overview would be made available to the public so it could be used by parents to compare schools.
The move came amid concerns by Ofsted that governors need more information to hold their schools to account.
Wilshaw warned some school governors were not up to scratch and would rather spend time “looking at the quality of lunches and not enough on maths and English”.
In a speech to the Policy Exchange in central London on Wednesday, he argued there needed to be a “professional approach” among governing bodies, particularly in the most challenging schools.
He said: “Of course there will always be a place for the volunteer and those from the community who want to support their local school. That will always be the case. But where there is a lack of capacity and where there are few volunteers without the necessary skills, we need to consider radical solutions.
“I have said it before and I will say it again, we should not rule out payment to governors with the necessary expertise to challenge and support schools with a long legacy of under-performance.”
Wilshaw said he wanted to issue a challenge to the public and private sectors to encourage their best people to get involved in school governance.
“For example, all large and medium-sized companies could insist that their senior and middle managers join the governing bodies of local schools. I believe Rolls-Royce strongly encourage their managers to do this.”
The new report card – the school data dashboard – will give information on how well a school is performing in test and exam results, as well as attendance, compared with other similar schools.
Ofsted said it would publish the documents, updated annually, for more than 20,000 state primary and secondary schools.
Wilshaw said governors should have access to the right information to understand and challenge their school, with no excuses for those that fail to do so.
“The school data dashboard I am launching today raises the stakes,” he said. “Many governors know their school well already. But for those that don’t, there are now no excuses. Inspectors will be very critical of governing bodies who, despite the dashboard, still don’t know their school well enough.”
The 6,000 schools currently considered less than good by Ofsted usually have issues with their leadership, including governors, Wilshaw said.
“Poor governance focuses on the marginal rather than the key issues. In other words, too much time spent looking at the quality of school lunches and not enough on maths and English.”
Brian Lightman, the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “It is absolutely right that governors and parents should hold schools to account, and access to data is a part of this.
“However, all data, especially ‘simple’ statistics, comes with a health warning. It should encourage people to ask more questions, not to draw premature conclusions. Reciting statistics about how a school is performing is much different from really understanding its strong points and areas for development.”
The last Labour government set out proposals for a US-style report card in a white paper published in 2009. Under the plans, every school was to be ranked on a number of measures and given a final overall grade. The proposals were scrapped after the last election.
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