Governance

How to ensure your GoaT is the GOAT

How to herd your tribe of volunteer governors and trustees to ensure the best response from them in any situation

How to herd your tribe of volunteer governors and trustees to ensure the best response from them in any situation

18 Jun 2024, 5:00

What do you make of your governors or trustees?

Seems a strange question, doesn’t it? But when you step away and get some distance, do you ever ask: What drives these people? How do I get the best out of them? Where do I sit in their hierarchy of loyalties?

It’s one of the unique features of our state schools that crucial educational decisions are delegated to volunteers. Over a quarter of a million of us are expected to resolve high-pressure, even existential, issues.

These can range from financial meltdown, determining strategic direction (including foundation status), adjudicating a permanent exclusion (PEX), or determining a complaint against a headteacher.

In no other part of the public realm are such burdens placed upon those who altruistically support vital hubs for their local communities.

Education loves an acronym, so I refer to my colleagues in this important role as GoaTs (Governors or/and Trustees).

I’ve spent a good deal of time thinking about the attributes of excellent GoaTs. And when it comes to making sure your GoaT is the GOAT,  it’s clear to me that school and trust leaders could really benefit from steeping themselves in understanding these vital qualities.

Interactions

Put yourself in the shoes of a GoaT who has a full-time job. Think of how much time they have to immerse themselves in the content of meeting and briefing packs and consider how to simplify and maximise their preparation.

Whether it’s financial information or your termly report, ask yourself: What do they need to know? And how best can I present information to accelerate and streamline understanding?

The better we are briefed, the more productive our discussions are and the swifter and more effective our decision-making will be. In putting together packs for your governing body or board of trustees, the key mantra is ‘less is more and more is less’.

The greater the level of precision, the higher the engagement. Focus not on outputs, but outcomes. What action do you wish taken? How speedily do you need it? What behaviours would you like to instil or change?

But it’s not just the regular rhythm of governance that you need to consider. Effective GoaT management becomes particularly acute where the stakes are much higher.

Complaints and PEXs

Apart from your initial appointment, there are two situations where GoaTs must sit in judgement on you. Unlike their original interviews, this time they know you. They (hopefully) respect you, and they may even like you.

But in these trial-like processes, we must focus on our duty to ensure fairness and objectivity.

We have to be confident that the behaviour complained of or the PEX decision was reasonable. Here, our hierarchy of loyalties has the interests of justice at its apex; personal feelings are parked at the front door.

For many GoaTs this is a challenge. They see genuine risk in undermining your position if they don’t back you. Indeed, I’ve heard of governors joining the initial PEX panel saying that, whatever they hear, they’ll support the headteacher. This does a disservice to everyone, including the institution itself.

There is a way of avoiding this. Pre-emptive, precautionary training of a group of GoaTs able to assume these difficult roles will help assure a rational, legal and proper process. This minimises the risks of further appeal but, more importantly, ensures the interests of justice are served.

Existential threats

GoaTs are most valuable when you are faced with an existential crisis. In the eye of a storm, whether the cause is finance, outcomes, Ofsted or reputational, we bring objectivity and robust analysis to navigate a path through the chaos.

Cultivating a holistic culture of openness and transparency will facilitate unfettered dialogue when things turn sour. When those who hold in their hands the fate of a school or college gather round the table, the ideation of solutions goes more smoothly when mutual respect fills the air.

In the end, when the very existence of an institution is under threat, GoaTs and leaders must stare down the menace and ask themselves: If not now, when? If not us, who?

Latest education roles from

Procurement Officer

Procurement Officer

RNN Group

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Director of Marketing and Student Recruitment

Barnet and Southgate College

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

Professional Practice (TLA) Lead

RNN Group

Health & Care Coordinator

Health & Care Coordinator

MidKent College

HR Assistant

HR Assistant

MidKent College

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Principal, Cedar Mount Academy Bright Futures Educational Trust

Satis Education

Sponsored posts

Sponsored post

Navigating NPQ Funding Cuts: Discover Leader Apprenticeships with NPQs

Recent cuts to NPQ funding, as reported by Schools Week, mean 14,000 schools previously eligible for scholarships now face...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How do you tackle the MIS dilemma?

With good planning, attention to detail, and clear communication, switching MIS can be a smooth and straightforward process, but...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

How can we prepare learners for their future in an ever-changing world?

By focusing their curriculums on transferable skills, digital skills, and sustainability, schools and colleges can be confident that learners...

SWAdvertorial
Sponsored post

Inspiring Education Leaders for 10 Years

The 10th Inspiring Leadership Conference is to be held on 13 and 14 June 2024 at the ICC in...

SWAdvertorial

More from this theme

Governance

Funding and SEND top challenges for governors, report finds

6 key findings from the National Governance Association's annual survey

Freddie Whittaker
Governance

Promised national governor recruitment campaign in limbo

Sector leader hopes Labour government will rekindle plan for hiring push

Freddie Whittaker
Governance

Sir Paul Marshall steps down from Ark Schools board

Media mogul was accused of liking and sharing far-right extremist posts and conspiracy theories on social media

Freddie Whittaker
Governance

‘A disgrace’: Plug pulled on governor recruitment scheme

Ministers ‘taking governors for granted’ as ‘final piece’ of governance funding axed

Schools Week Reporter

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *