Separation of powers, accountability, responsibility and humanity are Naureen Khalid’s top picks of the topics from this week’s education blogs
While governors and trustees take a strategic view, a school’s executive team has responsibility for its operational leadership. The role of the board is to hold the executive to account. That’s why in the charity sector CEOs are generally not appointed to the board. Yet whether this should be the case in schools and academies (which are exempt charities) has been a cause for debate.
In this blog, Katie Paxton argues that the head/principal/CEO should attend board meetings but should not be a trustee, on the grounds that they would in effect be marking their own homework. Paxton also notes the conflicts of interest the practice gives rise to.
The government’s latest model articles of association state that heads don’t automatically become a trustee as a right. For Paxton, the next logical step is for the DfE to disallow appointment to the board altogether as an important separation of powers. It’s a knowledgeable and persuasive argument.
For all the separation of strategic and operational roles, governors and trustees are still school leaders. This post by the Secret Headteacher unpicks what makes good leaders and should be of interest to them too.
The first thing on the Secret Headteacher’s list is putting ego aside. It’s an important reminder of the power of humility and that, while they may have earned their position of responsibility, there is a lot they don’t know. All governors, and especially chairs, should heed it. The strength of a governing body stems from recognising the knowledge and skills of everyone at the table.
The blog further extols the values of listening, explaining and open discussion, as well as being open to challenge. Governors hold heads to account, but they should be open to challenge themselves to foster good decision making.
Finally, balancing the competing pressures of responsibility and accountability requires trust. The Secret Headteacher reminds us that leadership, after all, is about building relationships. A touch of humanity can go a long way, and this blog certainly has that in spades.
This post also brings a much-needed humanity to proceedings. The present crisis has given us the opportunity to evaluate what we do and why we do it, but it has also created unprecedented pressures. Here, Myatt argues it is time to go back to essentials. On an organisational level, she asks us to refer back to our vision and values. On the personal level, to ask ourselves about the contribution we make and where we can have the maximum impact. Both are crucial to maintaining an effective and adaptable governing body in these uncertain times. The key issue is how.
Myatt’s answer is to remind us that sometimes we just have to say no in order to protect ourselves from getting trapped by the “fierce urgency of now”. And while it can feel uncomfortable, it can be done with kindness. Myatt’s blogs are a consistent model for that.
Perhaps the dominance of the ‘human touch’ in my blog selection this week is because of the ongoing saturation of news with Covid statistics. The human stories behind the numbers are often overlooked, and this post by Bukky Yusuf counters that beautifully. Here, she sets out her experiences of contracting the virus.
Her description of her illness and what helped her get better physically and mentally (and about ‘long Covid’) make for a sobering read, not least because she had taken all the recommended precautions and followed all the rules. Yusuf ends by saying that she would rather deal with the disruptions to her life of following the restrictions imposed by government than have to live through the terrible experience again.
There are two important messages here: knowing the range of symptoms Covid can present with, and following the advice given to keep us all safe. Responsibility, accountability and humanity. Pervasive themes for another challenging week in education.