Memorandum submitted by the National Governors'
1.1 The National Governors' Council (NGC)
is the main representative body for school governors in England.
The members of NGC are independent Associations of governing bodies
in two thirds of the LA areas in the country. NGC seeks to represent
the interests of all school governors and governing bodies in
all phases and types of school.
1.2 Members of NGC and the National Association
of School Governors (NASG) have recently taken a vote to merge.
The merger will take place early in 2006. This will mean that
there will be just one organisation representing all governors,
the National Governors' Association.
2.1 Summary (Paragraphs 3-3.8)
2.2 A School System Shaped by Parents
2.3 Choice and Access For All (Paragraphs
2.4 Personalised Learning (Paragraphs
2.5 Parents Driving Improvement (Paragraphs
2.6 Supporting Children and Parents
2.7 School Discipline (Paragraphs 9-9.2)
2.8 The School Workforce and School
Leadership (Paragraphs 10-10.4)
2.9 A New Role for Local Authorities
2.10 Conclusion (Paragraphs 12-12.1)
3.1 NGC welcomes those elements of the White
Paper that focus upon teaching and learning. Individual information
on pupils will enable schools to move forward with the personalised
3.2 It is interesting that the White Paper
centres on parental involvement and influence in school decision
making, but the majority of the proposals for schools will rest
on the decision of the governing body. It is the governing body
who will decide whether to apply for foundation or trust status
and who would publish proposals to expand or adopt a sixth form.
3.3 While NGC is pleased to see that the
Government has recognised the importance of ensuring that governors
receive appropriate training we believe that induction training
should be made mandatory.
3.4 It is the proposals that all schools
should seek self-governing status and in particular become Trust
Schools that give rise to most concern to NGC. We do not believe
that encouraging all schools to become autonomous will have the
desired effect of encouraging collaboration and co-operation.
Indeed we think that it could have a detrimental effect upon the
delivery of the Every Child Matters agenda.
3.5 NGC supports the stakeholder model of
governance in which all key local stakeholders have representation
on the governing body. We are concerned that the proposed model
for Trust Schools will enable the Trust to appoint the majority
of the governing body. This will reduce the influence of parents
as well as other community stakeholders, and the accountability
of the governing body for the standards achieved by the school
to parents and the community.
3.6 It is difficult to see how local authorities
will be able to carry out their strategic planning role if all
schools are their own admission authorities and are able to expand
and add sixth forms at will. The loss of community assets if all
schools become "self-governing" is also a matter of
concern. While safeguards will be undoubtedly put in place to
ensure that local authorities do receive some compensation if
school sites are disposed of in future, this is not the same as
the local authority being able to manage its school estate strategically.
3.7 One size does not fit all. The White
Paper has a very urban metropolitan feel to it and seems to offer
very little for rural communities. There is no evidence provided
as to why it is thought that the changes proposed would, in a
rural setting where many schools are community schools, improve
the teaching and learning outcomes in these schools. Parents in
urban settings may have limited choice of school, but in our rural
communities for very practical reasons there is often none. In
these areas more than one secondary school would be unsustainable
so the offer to parents of additional provision is an empty one.
The offer of free transport to the three nearest schools within
a two-six mile radius can offer no benefit in areas where very
many children are already travelling more than six miles to their
3.8 Innovationthe ability for schools
to innovate is already available in the system and it is difficult
to see why schools should need to change their status to take
up these opportunities.
4. A SCHOOL SYSTEM
4.1 Evidence clearly shows that when parents
take an interest and get involved in their children's learning
levels of achievement are raised. What is less clear is that parents
wish to be directly involved in the running of schools.
4.2 Trust Schools
4.2.1 The White Paper says that "parents
will welcome proposals for schools to acquire Trusts which are
focused on driving up standards creating new opportunities for
children". Yet no evidence is provided about why Trusts will
more effective in driving up standards than schools without Trusts.
Likewise the comment that Trust appointed governors will bring
"drive and direction" to schools. Governing bodies already
have the ability to appoint additional governors and there is
no evidence that Trust appointed governors will be more dynamic
than other governors. Indeed in many ways this is an insult to
the hundreds of thousands of school governors already out there
helping to drive school improvement forward.
4.3 Self-governing Schools
4.3.1 No evidence has been provided
to demonstrate that the vast majority of existing community and
voluntary controlled schools wish to take on the additional responsibilities
that foundation, voluntary-aided or Trust status would bring.
Even before the streamlined route to foundation status was introduced
schools could, if they wished apply, to take this route. There
is no evidence that schools failed to opt for foundation status
because of the bureaucracy of the process; it is far more likely
that they had no interest in the additional responsibilities and
valued the support of the local authority. A great many community
schools see their buildings as a local, not an individual, asset
and believe that ownership should rest with the local authority.
4.3.2 The only advantage of being the
admission authority of a school is to change the existing admission
arrangements. It is difficult to see how 23,000 admission authorities
will make the system simpler for parents to navigate, or enable
local authorities to carry out their responsibilities for strategic
planning. Since popular schools will inevitably be over-subscribed,
it will be the schools choosing the pupils, and despite the non-statutory
guidance, may be tempted to discriminate against difficult to
teach pupils, thus reinforcing existing inequality.
4.3.3 It is not clear why it is an advantage
for the Trust to appoint the majority of governing bodies (paragraph
2.20). This suggests that voluntary controlled schools are currently
not as effective as voluntary-aided schools, but no evidence is
provided to support this assertion.
4.3.4 NGC supports the stakeholder model
of governance. In the vast majority of state schools parents are
entitled to one third elected representation on the governing
body. The local authority, staff and community also have statutory
representation. We have serious concerns that allowing a Trust
to appoint the majority of the governing body would reduce truly
local representation on the governing body. It is not clear what
benefits there would be to a school of setting up its own Trust.
Paragraph 5.21 states that Trust Schools must still have one third
parental representation, but this will not be all elected representation,
it will be Trust appointed representation. While this mirrors
the current regulations for voluntary-aided schools, the Trusts
at these schools have generally long-standing links with both
the local community and the school. The fact that Trust Schools
will have a duty to promote community cohesion seems to be recognition
of the fact that they may have no roots in the local community.
4.3.5 It also seems extraordinary that
a White Paper that seeks to strengthen the parental involvement
in the decision making process should promote Trust Schools in
which elected parental representation will be reduced. Trust schools
will be the only type of institution at which Parents' Councils
will be compulsory because the strength of the parental voice
on the governing body will be reduced. Parents' Councils will
not have decision making powers and it is difficult to see how
decreasing independent parental representation on the governing
body will increase their influence on school policy making.
4.4 There are very many high performing
community schools and NGC does not support the proposal that no
new community schools will be established.
4.5.1 NGC is concerned that the Academies
programme is being used as a model for the governing bodies of
Trust Schools. The governing bodies of Academies do not follow
the stakeholder model of governance and may have little local
accountability. Where academies are replacing institutions which
have consistently failed to provide an acceptable standard of
education for their pupils then there is some acceptance within
NGC membership that the governing bodies of those institutions
may need to follow a different model. However, many of the proposed
additional academies will not be replacing failing schools, but
will be brand new schools to cater for additional places or replacement
schools under the Building Schools for the Future programme. In
these circumstances NGC can see no justification for a model of
governance which does not follow the stakeholder model. It is
also the case that at academies parents are only entitled to one
place on the governing body, which does not provide the parental
body as a whole with a strong voice in school policy making.
4.6 Parental Demand For New Schools
4.6.1 It is entirely right that parents
should be able to express satisfaction or dissatisfaction with
the standard of schooling on offer to their children. NGC looks
forward to further information about what level of support amongst
parents will be required for local authorities to put resources
at their disposal.
4.7 14-19 Opportunities
4.7.1 Like many, NGC was disappointed
that the Government chose not to adopt the Tomlinson proposals.
However, it is clearly important that all our young people have
appropriate opportunities at 14-19 to achieve to the best of their
abilities and interests.
4.7.2 We are not clear that allowing
successful schools to establish sixth forms will automatically
lead to a diversity of provision and greater choice for young
people. We believe that there is a possibility that a proliferation
of smaller sixth forms will not lead to greater choice, but will
produce a number of institutions competing to provide a small
narrow band of qualifications.
4.8 Tackling School Failure
4.8.1 It is clearly right that schools
which are failing to provide an acceptable level of education
should be the subject of intervention. The Ofsted inspection regime
is a vital instrument in providing a robust and objective assessment
of the standard of education provided. If the new inspection regime
with it emphasis on self-evaluation is to be effective then it
should not be Ofsted who are first to realise that a school is
under-performing. The Head teacher, senior-management team, governing
body and local authority all have an important role to play in
monitoring and evaluating provision and putting in place a realistic
4.8.2 NGC welcomes the role for local
authorities in tackling poor standards. While under-performance
is clearly unacceptable we do have some concerns about the imposition
of a one-year timetable for improvement. Our concerns principally
stem from how "improvement" will be defined. Such a
definition must not be results driven as even with an effective
improvement plan it is highly unlikely that any school will see
a material change in results in just one year. While local authorities
must ensure that appropriate measures are in place to set a school
on a road to improvement, we are concerned that placing a duty
on local authorities to consider using the full range of their
powers immediately could precipitate action which ultimately could
be more harmful than beneficial.
4.9 While supporting the principles of the
New Relationship with Schools, NGC is concerned that governing
bodies may not have the same level of access to and, therefore,
support from the School Improvement Partner (SIP) that they currently
receive from their external adviser. This could hinder the governing
body's ability to monitor and review the performance in schools.
4.10 We will await the Ofsted consultation
on lighter touch inspections for high-performing schools with
interest. We are not convinced of the need to have a separate
regime for separate schools, especially in view of the new short
notice regime introduced in September 2005.
5. CHOICE AND
5.1 We are not convinced by the arguments
put forward that parents want a diversity of choice and provision.
Some parents value the option of a faith school, but the vast
majority of parents simply want a good local school.
5.2 It is absolutely right that all parents
should have equal access to information and advice about the admission
arrangements of schools in their area. However, unless schools
amend their existing admission arrangements then better information
may only serve to inform parents of the schools their children
cannot gain admission to rather than providing new opportunities.
5.3 NGC does not believe many schools will
perceive any incentive to amend their admission arrangements to
admit pupils from more disadvantaged areas if these are not their
traditional cohort. It is also likely that any significant amendment
to a school's admission arrangements which would mean that children
who traditionally would have attended that school and now would
not automatically receive a place is likely to be unpopular with
5.4 Extending the scope of free school transport
to provide the most disadvantaged pupils with more choice is on
the face of it an attractive proposal. However, this again presupposes
that pupils would have a reasonable chance of obtaining a place
in three local schools. It will also provide logistical and cost
difficulties for authorities in trying to meet these preferences.
It is difficult to see how a proposal which envisages bussing
pupils further to schools fits with policies on healthy school
standards and school travel plans. We welcome the proposals that
such schemes would be piloted before they are rolled out nationwide.
Such a policy will not improve choice in vast swathes of the country
where there is only one secondary school within an eight or 10
mile radius rather than the three in a six mile radius envisioned
by the proposal.
5.5 We fully support the Admissions Code
of Practice and admission authorities' adherence to it. However,
the fact remains that the Code is non-statutory and that admission
authorities having had regard to the code can still employ over-subscription
criteria considered to be bad practice.
5.6 As regards the expansion of popular
schools we would reiterate our response to the DfES consultation
on this issue in 2004. NGC does not support the proposal for
the expansion of popular and successful schools to be "excepted
expansions". The NGC believes that encouraging individual
schools to expand could have a detrimental effect upon other schools
in the area, which could ultimately lead to less diversity of
provision. It would also make it extremely difficult for LAs to
plan properly the provision of school places. At a time when the
Government through Every Child Matters and the Children
Act is encouraging co-operation between the various agencies this
proposal would seem a retrograde step. We believe that it is better
to work to improve the quality of overall education provision
in an area than to allow an individual school to expand. Expansion
of any school should only be countenanced as part of properly
prepared local plan.
5.7 NGC believes there will be no benefit
to pupils if small sixth forms which can only offer a restricted
choice of subjects are allowed to open. The Department for Education
and Skills must make clear what it considers to be a viable size
for a school sixth form. The future viability of currently efficient
Sixth-Form Colleges/Community Colleges with wide 14-19 curricular
provision could be at risk from school small sixth form expansion,
leaving students with less breadth of post-16 subject choice.
6.1 NGC supports the personalised learning
agenda and believes schools will continue to expand on the many
examples of good practice already in existence. We believe that
it is right to focus attention on Key Stage 3 children. Schools
Forums on which governing bodies are represented will clearly
have a role to play in determining how the funds referred to in
paragraph 4.15 are distributed.
7. PARENTS DRIVING
7.1 Effective governing bodies already consult
and take account of the views of parents at the school and so
making this a statutory duty will in effect have little impact.
Parents' Councils will in some schools be an effective mechanism
for seeking parents' views on school policy. However, Parents'
Councils will not be appropriate or even effective in all schools.
The Education Act 2005 has only just abolished the requirement
to hold an Annual Parents' Meeting precisely because so few parents
chose to attend. Governing bodies will need to ensue that where
they set up a Parents' Council this is not the only means of seeking
parental views. Those parents currently least likely to engage
with schools are those least likely to attend Parents' Councils.
It may be that governing bodies will need to consider holding
Parents' Councils off school premises, as those parents who experienced
unhappy school days may be unwilling to attend meetings in such
7.2 As was said earlier parents must have
the right and the means to express dissatisfaction with the standard
of education available to their children. We are not sure how
the new statutory power for Ofsted to investigate complaints will
significantly improve this position. The White Paper states that
parents will only be able to exercise this right once all local
avenues for complaint have been exhausted. Clearly, if schools
have serious weaknesses in performance or discipline, which both
it and the local authority failed to acknowledge or address then
it is right that Ofsted should be able to take action. We find
it difficult to believe, however, that legitimate parental concerns
would not be addressed before Ofsted was called in.
8.1 NGC fully supports the Every Child
Matters agenda. We have concerns that many of the proposals
in the White Paper rather than supporting the collaboration and
cooperation ECM needs to be effective, will work against them
by encouraging schools to be more competitive.
8.2 It is of course governing bodies that
have the responsibility for determining what extended services
their schools will provide. These decisions will not be made easier
if pupils are travelling to schools further away from their homes.
While the pupils may be entitled to free transport their parents
will not and ensuring that they have access to what is on offer
will be more difficult.
8.3 Healthy School Food
8.3.1 NGC in collaboration with the
Food Standards Agency published its Food Policy in Schools:
A Strategic Food Framework for Governing Bodies in June 2005. The
document sets out the governing body's role in relation to a whole
school food policy and provides step by step guidance on how to
implement such a policy. NGC continues to work with the FSA and
others in promoting healthy school food.
9. SCHOOL DISCIPLINE
9.1 NGC welcomes the Government's acceptance
of the Steer Group's recommendations on school behaviour and discipline.
9.2 That having been said, some of our members
are concerned about the implications of the extension of parenting
contracts and will welcome clear guidance on these issues.
10. THE SCHOOL
10.1 NGC welcomes the renewed focus on continuous
professional development for teachers. It is important that teachers
should have access to such opportunities throughout their career.
10.2 NGC is most concerned that school support
staff should have similar opportunities. Workforce reform can
never be truly effective if support staff in one authority can
be paid completely different rates from those in a neighbouring
authority for the same terms and conditions. It is vital that
a coherent career structure is provided for support staff in schools.
We are not clear how the possible flexibilities that will be available
to Trust Schools on pay and conditions fit with the aims expressed
in paragraph 8.19.
10.3 As mentioned earlier, given the significant
statutory responsibilities that school governors take on, NGC
firmly believes that induction training should be mandatory for
all new governors. We also believe that experienced governors
should continually update their knowledge throughout their terms
10.4 Given the sentiments expressed in paragraph
8.33 " One of the strengths of our school governing bodies
is that they bring together experienced and energetic people form
all backgroundspeople who know what is best for their school
and their children", we are not clear why such people should
need to be replaced by Trust appointed governors.
11. A NEW ROLE
11.1 The majority of NGC members welcome
the support and advice they currently receive from their local
authority and we are pleased that the White Paper provides additional
powers to intervene when schools are failing to provide acceptable
standards of education.
11.2 As mentioned elsewhere in this evidence,
however, we feel that the local authority's role in co-ordinating
the "ECM" Agenda and strategic planning will be made
more difficult if all schools become self-governing. Local authorities
will retain a responsibility for the overall planning of educational
provision in the area, but these plans can be disrupted by an
individual school's decision to expand.
11.3 NGC does not support the abolition
of the School Organisation Committees (SOC). It is unfair to say
that existing providers will always support the status quo against
new providers. While removing the SOC may appear to reduce the
bureaucracy in the system, we feel that it removes one of the
checks and balances in the system.
12.1 Excellent schools are not excellent
because they are a constituted in a particular way. They are excellent
because the head teacher, school workforce, governing body, pupils
and parents combine to make them excellent. Excellence is about
partnership, collaboration and working with the local community.
NGC is concerned that many of the proposals in the White Paper
will not result in collaboration, but will lead to competition.