Balancing support and challenge, racial diversity on boards, leaders’ wellbeing, the role of SEND governors and data collection in early years are Naureen Khalid’s top picks of this week’s education topics
Jill Berry is an ex-head and a consultant who writes very eloquently about leadership matters. In her latest blog, based on her recent WomenED presentation, Berry explores the important concept of balance. She makes the point that all through our lives, events happen and priorities change which necessitate us having to realign and restore our personal balance. She ponders some questions we can ask ourselves to work out if we are striking a balance in our lives or not, and also talks about striving to find a balance between challenge and support, which makes this a useful read for governors too. Governance is a balance between support and challenge; though during the present crisis the balance needs to be tilted slightly towards support. Berry notes that in some cases there may not be enough support for staff from governors – a timely reminder for governors to be proactive in offering help and reassurance.
For boards to be effective, we need people from diverse communities who bring both diverse life experiences and diverse skills. The National Governance Association’s (NGA) annual survey provides valuable insight in this area and has a sufficiently well-established database to identify trends. Its CEO, Emma Knights, has blogged the survey and the NGA’s commitment to increasing board diversity, laying out seven commitments that the NGA has made to encourage progress in this area. These include commitment to research into why people from BAME communities do not join boards, improving NGA’s guidance and information about equality and diversity and looking at their own board’s composition. London seems to be the most ethnically diverse region and there may be lessons to be learnt from experiences there.
When a headteacher asked on Twitter if she was the only one who felt it was September 432rd, it got Fee Stagg thinking. In this post, she notes that some heads have reported not having had a day off since February. Leaders have been impacted by the need to keep on top of updates from DfE, bubbles and staff having to be sent home to self-isolate, as well as cancellation of CPD events and an increase in complaints. Stagg describes being left speechless at the fact that some governors have neglected to ask after the wellbeing of school leaders and goes on to pose some questions all would do well to reflect upon. These are, to repeat a much-used phrase, unprecedented times and the questions posed here by Stagg present an excellent starting point to evaluate their impact on wellbeing and workload.
The most recent Governor Hub blogpost looks at the role of the SEND governor during the present crisis. In conversation with SEND expert Anne Heavey, we hear about what SEND governors should be looking at and the questions they should be asking to support schools through the pandemic. She emphasises that it is imperative that the “SEND lens” is applied to everything and ensuring that pupils at SEND support level are not ignored, but to ensure that the SEND register isn’t used inappropriately.
James Pembroke is one of the most sensible voices commenting on assessment and data. In his latest, hot-off-the-press post, he writes about data collected in EYFS and argues that much of this is unnecessary. Governors, especially those governing EYFS settings, will find this blog useful. The development of an assessment system is operational and should be left to school leaders, but governors can and should be asking if the system is purposeful. Is it simply a checklist and would learning actually suffer if teachers stopped collecting that data? Is the assessment system really just “levels” under a new name and is it trying to measure progress? Are teacher assessments being used for performance management? Pembroke makes a good case for a frank conversation between governors and leaders and provides a useful scaffold to ensure it’s constructive.