Reducing Bureaucracy - Reducing the Bureaucracy of School Governance

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					       Reducing the Bureaucracy of School Governance

This paper has been prepared by the National Governors’ Association as a response to the
Department for Education’s request for ideas on how to reduce bureaucracy.


A. The Issue

Governance has been included as an item for consideration under the ‘Reducing
Bureaucracy’ section of the new government’s Structural Reform Plan for the DfE, and this
provides a timely opportunity to look more closely at governing body responsibilities. We are
keen to make governance efficient and effective, and to encourage the recruitment and
retention of active governors.

Although there are some school-specific duties which could be reduced, many of the
responsibilities which governing bodies hold are not school specific, but relate directly to
their role as the accountable body and, importantly, as the employer or, in community
schools, in exercising employer responsibilities. These responsibilities are covered by wider
legislation (e.g. over-arching employment law and health and safety legislation) and thus
cannot simply be removed.

The increasing responsibilities of governing bodies over the past twenty years have led
some to conclude that they are ‘over-burdened’ and their responsibilities need to be
reduced. However, it is not the responsibilities that have increased beyond a manageable
level, but it is largely the fragmented manner in which governing body responsibilities are
expressed, how they are understood and how they are translated into tasks that can cause
problems. However, there are some areas of inconsistency and overlap which can be
identified. These are included in the recommendations.


B. Recommendations

This paper proposes that the following issues need to be addressed:

   1. The governing body should be required to ensure appropriate information on the
      conduct and standards of their school is in the public domain.

   2. A relaxation in the Constitution Regulations, preserving the requirement for key
      stakeholders to be represented, but removing the proportionality requirements, would
      allow a greater focus on appointing governors with the required skills.

   3. Governing bodies of maintained schools should have the same ability to delegate as
      governing bodies in academies.

   4. The DfE should review and revise their guidance to governing bodies, making it clear
      which aspects of the role are strategic, operational, or compliance.

   5. Mandatory induction training should be introduced so that from the start of their
      tenure governors (including headteacher and staff governors) have a better


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        understanding of the role and therefore are less likely to confuse that which is
        strategic, operational or compliance.

    6. The roles of the chair of governors and of the clerk to the governing body are critical,
       and should be recognised as such with specific training.

    7. Regulations governing staff appointments below headteacher and deputy
       headteacher should be removed but the expectation made clear in guidance that
       governors should not be required to be involved in the appointment or initial dismissal
       hearing for other staff.

    8. The option for the Special Educational Needs responsible officer to be the chair of
       the governing body or a governor should be abolished.

    9. Schools should be free to make their own decisions on collective worship, and the
       governing body statutory role in determining Sex and Relationships Education should
       be abolished.

    10. Governing bodies should comply with standard audit procedures. FMSiS should no
        longer be a requirement.


C. Status of the Governing Body: Accountability

All state maintained1 primary, secondary and special schools, are accountable to their
governing bodies, which in turn are accountable to parents and the community. Parent and
staff representatives are elected to the governing body; the local authority appoints
governors to the governing body with the relevant religious bodies appointing foundation
governors in faith schools. In addition the governing body can appoint its own community
governors, and it is traditionally these posts which the governing body uses to cover skills
gaps, hence these posts often being offered to governors from the business community.
Increasingly local authority appointment panels also look to the skills set of their appointees
and this should be further encouraged. This ‘stakeholder model’ has been endorsed by
recent reviews of school governance. It is not a source of unnecessary bureaucracy.

The principles of governance are the same at an academy as at a maintained school, but the
difference is that all academies are charitable companies and as such have a trust body.
The trust body is the over-arching accountable body and may have the ability to appoint the
majority of the governing body. The governing bodies of academies are composed as set
out in their articles of association, but the practice of the governing body will not be that
different from a local authority maintained school.

This model is complicated in both maintained schools and academies where federations of
schools have a governing body which is accountable for the whole federation i.e. each
individual school does not have its own governing body. Issues are beginning to be raised
by federated schools about this model of governance and further work is required on this.
Regardless of the detail of its responsibilities (what it is accountable for), the governing body
has key accountabilities (to whom it is accountable, and how it does that).



1
 maintained schools are defined as: community, foundation, voluntary aided and controlled (and their
special school equivalents).

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Although the governing body is the accountable body, it has to produce very little in terms of
external accountability. The requirement to hold an Annual Parents Meeting was abolished
as not being fit for purpose, and the Annual Report to Parents was abolished at the same
time. Its replacement, the School Profile has been ineffectual since its inception and is
believed by many to have already been abolished. The governing body needs to
demonstrate to its stakeholders that it is carrying out its strategic role, and therefore must
publish timely information on the conduct and performance of their school.

Recommendation 1
The governing body should be required to ensure appropriate information on the
conduct and standards of their school is in the public domain.


D. Governance Regulations

There are three key sets of regulations dealing with how governing bodies conduct
themselves and their business:

   •   The Terms of Reference Regulations referred to above
   •   The School Governance (Procedures) (England) Regulations 2003 (as amended)
   •   The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations.2007.

On the whole, these are fit for purpose. However, a relaxation in the Constitution
Regulations, preserving the requirement for key stakeholders to be represented, but
removing the proportionality requirements would allow a greater focus on appointing
governors with the required skills.

Recommendation 2
A relaxation in the Constitution Regulations, preserving the requirement for key
stakeholders to be represented, but removing the proportionality requirements would
allow a greater focus on appointing governors with the required skills.

There may also be scope to amend and relax the functions which the governing body can
‘delegate’. Academy governing bodies are free to delegate to ‘...any governor, committee,
the Principal or any other holder of executive office, such of their powers or functions as they
consider desirable...’. Amending maintained governing body delegation rules on similar lines
would allow them to focus on their key strategic role.

Recommendation 3
Governing bodies of maintained schools should have the same ability to delegate as
governing bodies in academies.


E. Differentiating Governance and Management:

As set out by the Regulations, the key role of the governing body is to:
   • Exercise its functions with a view to fulfilling a largely strategic role in the running of
       the school by:
           o setting aims and objectives, setting polices for achieving those aims and
               objectives and setting targets for achieving those objectives.
   • Monitor and evaluate progress in the school towards achievement of the aims and
       objectives and review the strategic framework in the light of that progress.

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   •   Act as ‘critical friend’ to the headteacher providing support and challenge through
       constructive criticism.

As set out by the regulations, the key role of the headteacher is to:
   • Be responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school
       and the implementation of the strategic framework established by the governing
       body;
   • Advise the governing body in relation to the establishment and review of the strategic
       framework - in particular s/he will:
           o Draft the aims and objectives – for consideration, moderation, rejection or
               adoption by the governing body.
           o Draft policies for achieving the aims and objectives.
           o Draft targets for the achievement of the aims and objectives.

Defining the strategic role of the governing body

In order that the governing body can meet its responsibilities to promote high standards of
educational achievement, it must ensure that an effective strategy for fulfilling this
responsibility is in place. This is achieved by the iterative process of:
     • Establishing a vision.
     • Setting the values and aims of the school within an agreed policy framework.
     • Appointing and performance managing the headteacher.
     • Agreeing the school improvement strategy which includes setting statutory targets
        with supporting budgets and staffing structures.
     • Monitoring and evaluating progress through rigorous self evaluation which
        establishes if the policies are effective, and if the improvement strategy is working, if
        the school is achieving its aims …
     • … which feeds into the next iteration of the school improvement strategy, target
        setting, and agreeing budgets and staffing structures.

In order to manage this process the governing body requires:
    • Acknowledgment that it is the accountable body from all parties.
    • Headteachers who are fully trained in governance and accountability.
    • The flexibility and support to ensure that it has the calibre of governors required to
       carry out the role effectively.
    • Accurate, appropriate and timely information through:
            o Internally generated reports from the headteacher, school business manager,
               etc.
            o Local authority reports from the school improvement partner and other
               improvement services.
            o Centrally generated comparative data such as RAISEonline, and inspection
               reports from Ofsted.


F. The Conduct of the School: Compliance issues

Governing bodies are also responsible for the conduct of the school. Many of the tasks
which fall into this category can be defined as ‘compliance’ issues, with the governing body
being required to ensure that such matters are being done, rather than by doing them
themselves. Many compliance issues arise from requirements which are not just applicable
to schools, such as health and safety, employment and equalities legislation. Other
compliance issues which are school specific (such as SEN, community cohesion and

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FMSiS) are largely operational and therefore should be carried out by the school staff and
reported to the governing body.

The table in the appendix sets out the key responsibilities of the governing body, and
whether the responsibility is strategic, operational, or compliance, and whether the tasks
which result from each responsibility must be carried out by the governing body or by
someone else.


G. Key Legislation and Guidance to Governing Bodies

Key legislation includes:

Primary Legislation
Sections 19-40 of the Education Act 2002 - EA 2002, which provides that the over-arching
role of the governing body is to be the accountable body, which is responsible for:
    • The conduct of the school
    • Promoting high standards of educational achievement

Secondary Legislation
The key secondary legislation in setting out the role of the governing body is The Education
(School Government) (Terms of Reference) (England) Regulations 2000 (as amended).
These set out the respective roles of the governing body and the headteacher.

Guidance
A key issue is that there is no single comprehensive list of governor responsibilities. In
addition to the primary and secondary legislation, guidance consists of:

     •   A list of policies/required documents/actions in the Guide to the Law for School
         Governors.
     •   The DfE’s ‘Decision Planner’ (which is designed to set out which governing body
         responsibilities can be delegated and to whom, but has not been updated since
         2005).
     •   Section C of the Ofsted Self Evaluation Form.

No single document contains the totality of governor responsibilities. The fact that the
decision planner contains over 80 ‘tasks’ gives rise to the view that governors have too many
responsibilities, but it is important to distinguish between those functions which the
governing body needs to be directly involved in (e.g. determining improvement strategies,
monitoring and evaluation), and those functions which the governing body needs to ensure
have been done (e.g. CRB checks on staff).

Recommendation 4
The DfE should review and revise their guidance to governing bodies, making it clear
which aspects of the role are strategic, operational, or compliance.


H.   More Effective Governors

There is no guidance as to the skills or to the time commitment expected of school
governors. Governing bodies can be likened to charity boards, for they fulfil very similar
functions. A general rule of thumb is that, in order to discharge their functions effectively,

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charity trustees should spend between 10-20 fulltime equivalent days a year (ie 75 – 150
hours a year) carrying out their trustee role (with the chair towards the upper end of the
scale). If we apply this rule of thumb to governors, then governors (including the chair) who
are spending more than the equivalent of twenty days per year on their duties need to ask
serious questions about whether they are being truly strategic or have strayed into
‘operational’ matters. Most governors should be spending much nearer the equivalent of ten
days a year - or on average two hours a week during school term time - on the role, and it is
important that this message is conveyed to prospective governors and that this time is used
effectively at the necessary strategic level, rather than wasted with unnecessary tasks which
should be delegated. Clerks to governing bodies have a key role in ensuring that this is the
case.

Induction training is not mandatory and the critical role of the chair of the governing body is
not recognised with any requirement for specific training. In some cases the chair can be in
post for many years without any requirement for refresher training and updating. This can
lead to stagnation and barriers to change.

Recommendation 5
Mandatory induction training should be introduced so that from the start of their
tenure governors (including headteacher and staff governors) have a better
understanding of the role and therefore are less likely to confuse that which is
strategic, operational, or compliance.

It is important that governing bodies consider their own succession, and particularly that of
the chair. All leaders need to refresh and renew their position.

The role of clerks is also critical to effective functioning of governing bodies, and further work
needs to be done to support this role and to give it the status which it deserves.

Recommendation 6
The roles of the chair of governors and of the clerk to the governing body are critical
and as such should be recognised with specific training to enable the efficient and
effective management of the governing body, reducing unnecessary bureaucracy.

We believe that it is also very important to improve the preparation of headteachers and
other staff to understand and to work effectively and efficiently within this governance model.


I. Areas of Governing Body Responsibility

Staffing

Staffing Structure
The governing body is either the direct employer of staff in foundation and voluntary aided
schools, or it exercises employer responsibilities in community and voluntary controlled
schools. In all cases regulations make the governing body responsible for appointing,
performance managing, disciplining and dismissing staff. The regulations also allow (and
guidance recommends that) most of these functions be delegated to the headteacher.

All decisions in school should be guided by the school improvement strategy which drives
budget and staffing decisions. As the biggest asset (and cost) in any school is its staff, the
governing body must have a strategic overview of the numbers and skills of the staff


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employed. Therefore determining the staffing structure is a strategic role that the governing
body, with advice from the headteacher, needs to retain.

Staff Appointments – headteacher / deputy headteacher
The headteacher is the operational leader in the school and his/her appointment is one of
the most important decisions the governing body will have to make. This is clearly a key
strategic decision (and one which will require operational input), and the governing body
must continue to control this process. Although the operational input will not be required
from the governing body in deputy headteacher appointments (as the headteacher can lead
on this) the nature of the deputy role means that the governing body must retain control of
the process. Governors may also need to play a part in other leadership appointments, such
as school business manager, assistant headteachers (especially where a school does not
have a deputy head), and Children Centre managers.

Staff Appointments – teaching and support staff
In setting out its vision for the school, and in putting in place a strategy of how this will be
achieved, and in appointing the headteacher who will deliver the strategy, the governing
body should, therefore, trust the headteacher to make the right appointment decisions for the
school. It is after all the headteacher and her/his team who will have to manage and work
with their staff. Governors are not educational professionals and judgements on candidates’
professional attributes should be delegated to the operational professionals within the
school.

Disciplinary Matters
In most schools the headteacher will take the initial role in any disciplinary process with the
governors providing an appeals panel if there should be an appeal. In some cases (and all
cases where the case involves the headteacher) the governors will provide both a
disciplinary panel and an appeals panel. As the employer, the governing body has the
ultimate responsibility and so it is right and proper that despite the operational nature of the
task, a panel of governors should be the body to which an appeal is directed. However, in
schools, as with any other employer, it should be possible to delegate an initial disciplinary
panel to the staff. However, this is not allowed under the current regulations which only
allow delegation to the headteacher, a committee of the governing body, or to an individual
governor.

Recommendation 7
Regulations governing staff appointments below headteacher and deputy
headteacher should be removed but the expectation made clear in guidance that
governors should not be required to be involved in the initial appointment or
dismissal hearing for other staff.

Pupils

Behaviour Policy
As standards of behaviour in the school are at the heart of its ethos, the governing body
should retain the strategic responsibility for setting out a general statement of principles
which the headteacher must refer to in setting the behaviour policies for the school.

Pupil Discipline
The headteacher is directly responsible for pupil discipline and only the headteacher can
exclude a pupil. The governing body has an operational role in certain prescribed
circumstances in reviewing the decision to exclude. This is an important safeguard, both for
pupils and headteachers. The vast majority of headteachers do not exclude pupils for trivial

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matters, or without proper consideration of the facts, but it is important that such significant
decisions are open to review. As with staff disciplinary matters, this is a right and proper
function of the governing body.

Special Educational Needs (SEN)

The governing body has several responsibilities for SEN:

    •   The governing body must have an SEN policy
    •   The governing body must appoint a responsible officer.
    •   The governing body must appoint a SENCO and determine the SENCO’s
        responsibilities.

How the school welcomes and supports pupils with SEN goes to the heart of its ethos and is,
therefore, clearly a strategic matter. The SEN policy itself will, however, be developed by
the school staff with appropriate consultation and discussion with governors, as will the
seniority and status of the SENCO.

All schools must have a responsible officer and regulations allow for this role to be carried
out by the chair of the governing body or another governor. As this role confuses the
operational and strategic, the option for placing the responsibility for informing staff about the
needs of individual pupils on a governor should be abolished.

Recommendation 8
The option for the Special Educational Needs responsible officer to be the chair of the
governing body or a governor should be abolished.


Curriculum

Teaching a broad, balanced and appropriate curriculum is a key driver to improving
standards. Thus the governing body should retain the strategic responsibility for adopting a
curriculum policy, which has been developed by the headteacher and for monitoring,
evaluating and reviewing the implementation of the policy.

Sex and Relationships Education
The governing body has specific responsibilities in relation to sex and relationships
education (SRE). In primary schools it is for the governing body to decide whether to teach
SRE over and above that taught in National Curriculum Science. In theory, whether or not
SRE should be taught in primary schools can be related back to the ethos of the school and
thus comes under the purview of the governing body. However, governors are not education
or child development professionals. And leaving the decision to individual governing bodies
means that children have vastly different experiences and understanding. The requirement
for compulsory PSHE did not become law recently, but in accepting that SRE should be
taught in all schools, with parents having the option to remove their children, would mean
that the governing body role should be abolished.

Collective Worship
The governing body is tasked with ensuring that the school complies with the requirement for
a daily act of collective worship. This requirement should be abolished and schools left free
to make their own decisions. This change in the regulations would not interfere with the
freedom of schools who wish to carry out such collective worship from doing so, or indeed
are required to do so by their trust deed.

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Recommendation 9
Schools should be free to make their own decisions on collective worship, and the
governing body statutory role in determining Sex and Relationships Education should
be abolished.


Finance

Governors are responsible for approving the annual budget and monitoring it throughout the
year. The headteacher along with the finance staff are responsible for ensuring funding is
spent appropriately.

Currently schools are required to meet FMSiS (Financial Management Standards in
Schools). The idea of a tool to ensure schools had robust financial systems in place and
governors had the skills to apply appropriate scrutiny was a good one in theory, but in
practice has been less successful. In reality each local authority introduced a slightly
different scheme requiring different levels of documentation and evidence. In some cases
this was a significant burden on schools, and completely unnecessary. It has for many
schools become a process to be endured, rather than a useful check on their financial
robustness. As FMSiS does not fulfil its purpose in every school, it should not be a
requirement. Instead, governing bodies should be required, as part of their monitoring role,
to ensure compliance with standard audit procedures are in place, and to report annually on
their financial situation.

Recommendation 10
Governing bodies should comply with standard audit procedures. FMSiS should no
longer be a requirement.



October 2010




                                       Page 9 of 11
                    APPENDIX: key governing body responsibilities


The following table is taken from the current DfE sources (see p5 above) and is not 100%
completei; we have therefore requested in recommendation 4 that DfE update the guidance.
However we have used the existing table as a starting point to distinguish the status of
different governing body responsibilities as:

    •   Strategic – directly related to the realisation of the vision, values and aims and thus
        the responsibility of the governing body.
    •   Operational – tasks which actively need doing though not necessarily by the
        governing body.
    •   Compliance – issues which the governing must ensure are addressed.

We have reviewed the list and do not consider the vast majority of these issues to be
unnecessary. We would be interested to hear from anyone who thinks that any of these
functions are unnecessary and should be abolished: please e-mail
emma.knights@nga.org.uk

The list also does not specify what can be organised on behalf of the governing body by the
clerk, but delegating tasks to the clerk is another way in which the work of the governing
body and its meetings can focus on the strategic decisions.


                         Task                               Status           Responsibility
STAFFING
Determine staffing structure for the school            Strategic        HT proposes, GB agree
Determine Pay Policy                                   Strategic        HT proposes, GB agree
Determine Performance Management Policy for            Strategic        HT proposes, GB agree
teaching staff
Appointing headteacher                                 Strategic /      GB does
                                                       Operational
Appointing deputy headteacher                          Strategic /      GB does with HT
                                                       Operational      involvement
Performance Management of headteacher                  Strategic /      GB does
                                                       Operational
Disciplinary panels and grievance hearings             Operational      GB does
Monitor Staff work/life balance & well-being           Operational      GB does for HT, HT
                                                                        does for staff
Appointing SENCO and determining responsibilities      Operational      HT does
Appointing teaching staff                              Operational      HT does
Appointing support staff                               Operational      HT does
Qualifications checks on staff                         Operational      HT does
Performance Management of other staff                  Operational      HT does
Determination of disciplinary and grievance            Compliance       HT does, GB agree
procedures
Allegations of abuse by staff policy                   Compliance       HT does , GB agree
Appointing Designated Person (looked after children)   Compliance       HT does and reports
Responsible Officer (SEN)                              Compliance       HT does and reports
CRB and Vetting and Barring checks on staff and        Compliance       HT does and reports
central record thereof
Equal opportunities policies                           Compliance       HT does and reports
(Disability/Gender/Race/Sexual orientation)*



                                           Page 10 of 11
PUPILS
Admissions Policy (Foundation & VA)                     Strategic           GB does
Pupil behaviour/discipline principles                   Strategic           GB does
Child protection policy                                 Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Charging Policy                                         Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
SEN Policy                                              Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Home School Agreement                                   Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Register of Attendance/ Attendance Targets              Compliance          HT does and reports
School Food                                             Compliance          HT does and reports

CURRICULUM
Extended services – determine what is offered           Strategic           GB does
Curriculum Policy                                       Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Policy on Sex-education                                 Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Target setting – set and publish                        Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Daily act of collective worship                         Compliance          HT does and reports

FINANCE
Approve the annual budget                               Strategic        GB does
Monitor budget spend                                    Strategic        GB does
Financial scheme of delegation                          Strategic        HT proposes, GB agree
Financial Management Standards in Schools (FMSiS)       See recommendation 10

PREMISES
Asset Management Plan                                   Strategic           HT proposes, GB agree
Accessibility Plan                                      Operational         HT does and reports
Risk Assessment Record                                  Compliance          HT does and reports
Health and Safety Policy                                Compliance          HT does and reports

INFORMATION
School Prospectus                                       Operational      HT does and reports
School Profile                                          ABOLISH: see recommendation 1
Freedom of Information Publication Scheme               Compliance       HT does and reports
Complaints Procedure (parents)                          Compliance       HT does and reports

OTHER
Community cohesion – duty to promote                    Compliance          HT does and reports

*also apply to pupils.


i
  For example, the table does not include self-evaluation which is an extremely important component
of school improvement. The Secretary of State has announced that Ofsted’s SEF (self-evaluation
form) will not be compulsory in the future. All governing bodies carrying out their functions properly
sign off the school’s SEF and use it a key part of their school improvement cycle. NGA whole-
heartedly welcomes the removal of unnecessary and duplicated information from the SEF, but has
concerns that the absence of a recommended overarching framework for self-evaluation might lead to
less robust and less objective evaluation of performance in some schools, particularly those which are
coasting. Although abandoning the standard SEF may seem attractive to some schools, starting from
scratch could lead to each school developing its own template, which could be thought of an increase
in the bureaucracy associated with school improvement. NGA will be working with partners to find
ways of supporting our members in order that school self-evaluation is truly robust and worthwhile.




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