First Governance Conference – Recap

November 30th, 2017

Governance That Works For Everyone

On Saturday 14 October, Octavo’s Governor Services team hosted their first ever conference at Selsdon Park Hotel. The conference was attended by over 100 governors, headteachers and senior leaders from right across the Octavo reach.  Delegates arrived in style to coffee and pastries and settled into the conference room, with a healthy buzz of conversation as colleagues old and new caught up with professional gossip whilst waiting for the speakers to begin.

The conference was opened by the familiar faces of Sylvia McNamara, Octavo CEO and Gordon Smith, Chair of the CHTA and the Octavo Board of Directors.

Quick to follow was the first speaker, fresh from an ‘Opportunity Regions’ engagement in Kent, SESL RSC Dominic Herrington, who shared his ‘Regional Perspective’ on Governance, giving delegates a thorough grounding in how to rebuild damaged schools from the floor up.

Dominic outlined four Main Phases in the ‘turnaround’ of schools:

  • Stabilise – The School is broken
  • Repair – Control from Chaos
  • Improve – Strategies start to embed
  • Sustain – Good outcomes over 3+ years

He gave examples of the type of questions governing boards should be asking at each stage,

  • In the stabilizing stage ‘Where are the pockets of stronger practice we can develop and share?’
  • In the repair stage ‘Ask parents, ask children, how they are experiencing the changes at school’
  • In the improve phase ‘What have you learned, what can you share?’
  • In the sustain phase ‘How can we challenge ourselves to be brilliant?

Following a short break for coffee, the next speakers were Doug Robinson, Richard Lockyer, Lee Mason-Ellis and Anne Slade from the Pioneer Academy Trust who involved governors in an interactive session about ‘School Culture’

The Trust outlined the culture behind Pioneer, explaining the various devices that the Trust uses to explore and confirm their own ideals; the Vision statement, the Trust Mantra and everyone’s favourite, The Moral box, a white mug-sized box which intrigued delegates. Inside the box was indeed a mug, the Pioneer vision statement, a pen with the mantra ‘And the main thing is learning’ on its side whilst inside the mug was a small drawing of a child ‘Because children are at the heart of everything we do’. Richard explained that all teachers working for Pioneer are issued with their own Moral Box to remind them that ‘we are all responsible for “policing the edges of our own moral box.’”

Following a hearty lunch and the opportunity to network with other governors, the delegates filed back in to hear from the afternoon’s programme of speakers, first of whom was Sean Harford, Ofsted’s National Director of Education, whose tweets are required reading for anyone interested in school issues.

The theme of Sean’s presentation was the impact on curriculum from previous changes focusing on the Three Rs, reading, writing and arithmetic, and Ofsted’s response to this.

This work was powered by new Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, who was keen to use her background in business analysis to bring more consultation with schools into Ofsted’s strategy via survey and research work. Her aim was to look at not only the education system but also what impact professional guidance from Ofsted and the DfE has upon schools.

Currently Ofsted are keen to identify the impact that curriculum is having at national, local and classroom level and whether it leads to outcomes.  Researchers and inspectors had been talking to teachers, governors and parents to gather information. The resulting report has thrown up some interesting results. It appears that raising the bar has indeed resulted in higher standards, for example in GCSEs. Therefore, Sean highlighted how the evidence suggested overall support for SATs GCSEs in exam format. Despite this, Sean stated that it was now time to look at the wider curriculum.

The report was being taken into account as Ofsted prepares the new Framework for release in 2019.

Anne Lyons, National President of the NAHT, was the final speaker of the day. She prefaced her presentation by stating that clerks to governors should be considered an essential role of every governing board; the only time governors should be taking the minutes is in an emergency. She thought the suggestion of tax benefits for governors was a good idea, but that governors should remain unpaid, as there were benefits from being a governor, namely excellent CPD.

Anne spoke about the challenges facing schools, which included funding, teacher training and term time holidays. She noted how schools are being asked to do more with less, especially as schools have already made economies and now basic requirements such as maintenance, provision and staffing are being pruned in response to funding cutbacks. This comes on top of rises to pensions, NI and pay since 2010. Schools are facing the choice of joining a MAT or CAT, or remaining with an LA where services are in steep decline.

To close her talk, Anne made the following comment on term time holidays: ‘The world has changed and school holidays need amending to reflect this. Parents who work need care during holidays and weekends. Teachers, support staff and pupils are exhausted after a seven-week term and need a break of one-two weeks every six-eight weeks; the summer break is too long, for both parents, teachers and children.’

After a few brief words from Caroline Davies, Head of Governor Services, to thank all our participants for attending, it was time for everyone to head for home, but not until we had passed on the Octavo goodie bag, resplendent with our very own customised cupcake.

What do you think about the issues raised by our speakers? Let us know!



How can we challenge ourselves to be brilliant?

Dominic Herrington, SESL RSC