EXCLUSIVE: DfE directors not following own rules on governor’s interests

EXCLUSIVE: DfE directors not following own rules on governor’s interests

Schools with Department for Education (DfE) directors on their governing bodies are not following the government’s requirement to publish their register of interests online, Schools Week has found.

The DfE issued statutory guidance in September stating that governors of local authority-maintained schools should publish a list of relevant interests on their school’s website – including their links to businesses and relationships with school staff.

Academy trust members and trustees were already expected to do so, but that was extended to local governors of academies as well in September.

However Schools Week has found two schools where the department’s own directors are governors do not seem to be following the rules.

The department’s director of strategy Tom Shinner is a governor at the flagship Greenwich Free School, in London, which he helped found.

He was policy adviser to former education secretary Michael Gove before taking the £105,000 DfE role in 2014.

Jonathan Simons, GFS chair of governors and head of education at right-leaning thinktank Policy Exchange, said: “We have had various items of governance information up on our site since we started as a school but we’re conscious that it doesn’t have all the latest required information at present including the register of interests so we’re working to update it now.”

Shona Dunn, the DfE’s director general for education standards, is listed in the department’s register as a governor of Alderbrook Primary School, in Wandsworth, London.

The school’s website does not appear to have a published register of interests. Its own list of governors doesn’t even included Ms Dunn.

The school did not respond to a request for comment.

The DfE’s statutory guidance released in September said governing bodies “will be under a duty” to publish interests on their website.

The document added: “Any governor failing to reveal information to enable the governing body to fulfil their responsibilities may be in breach of the code of conduct and as a result be bringing the governing body into disrepute. In such cases the governing body should consider suspending the governor.”

The findings emerged after Schools Week published the register of interests for the DfE’s board members on our website. The department does not publish this information and it can only be viewed by appointment.

The disclosures appear to reflect a wider non-compliance in the sector. Figures released last year by the National Governors Association (NGA) found nearly half of academies do not follow these rules.

The NGA said there may be a need to raise more awareness and plans to collect more information on the practice this year.

Shena Lewington, a governance consultant who runs the Clerk to Governors information website, said: “The register is very often missing – but nothing happens to schools if they don’t do that.”

She said for many schools this isn’t a top priority, but added: “Governors should monitor their website not just for compliance, which they have to do better, but also as a market place and source of information to parents.”

The DfE said it would investigate any complaints about the non-compliance of maintained schools. The Education Funding Agency oversees the compliance of academies.

A spokesperson said: “Should any governor, regardless of who they are, become aware that their school is not meeting its statutory and legal duties, they must seek to correct this at the earliest opportunity.”