Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
MONDAY 12 DECEMBER 2005
Q380 Jeff Ennis: Governing bodies
in trust schools: one of the themes within the White Paper is
to promote parent power, which we have focused on to some extent,
given the fact that trust schools do not have to appoint any parent
governors on the trust bodywe have got the situation whereby
you can set up a parents' council instead of parental representation
on the trust school governing bodyare parents going to
be happy with that model, being demoted to a parents' council
rather than representation on the trust schools?
Ms Windass: It was my understanding
that trust schools will have to have parental representation on
their governing body.
Q381 Jeff Ennis: I think it is one,
is it not?
Ms Windass: They have to have
one elected parental governor, and my understanding is they will
still have to have a third of parents on their governing body,
but they would be appointed rather than elected as with the majority
of other schools. I think it reduces parental influence because
they are trust appointed, they are not elected independent representatives
on the governing body. They become trust representatives on the
governing body, therefore it does potentially reduce parental
influence rather than increase it.
Q382 Jeff Ennis: I cannot see the
incentive for somebody standing for election on a trust governing
body when the others are appointed. We have all seen the situation
in some schoolsI have been on governing bodies for over
20 years nowwhere occasionally you get the clique situation
with parents developing in some of the schools, whereby if you
are not inside that clique, you are not going to get anywhere
as the parental representation within that school. Will this new
model reinforce that sort of cliquey situation which can prevail
in some schools?
Professor Adams: I do not know
if it will do that. A motivation to stand for election is that
it might be the only way you can get on to the governing body
if you are only talking about one or two places for an elected
parent, so there is a motivation there. My concern about school
councils is we can have school councils and we do have them in
many schools now, but if we do not have them, the schools where
they have not got them, there must be a reason for that. Governing
bodies have tried everything to get parents along to the school.
The Education Act this year has abolished the requirement for
an annual meeting because simply it was so difficult to get people
to them. My own school, we offered free drinksit was a
white working-class areafor people to come along.
Q383 Jeff Ennis: The Chairman has
Professor Adams: Chairman, I would
not dream of suggesting that it might work rather better in this
institution, but it did not work in my school.
Q384 Chairman: In response to Jeff
Ennis's questions, one of the things that hits you when you read
the White Paper is it is just one meeting of the school governing
body that can decide to opt for a foundation/trust status. You
do not have to talk to all the parents, it does not have to have
a referendum or any engagement at all as far as I understand it.
Professor Adams: You have to consult.
Q385 Chairman: It is up to the school
how far you describe the consultation as confrontation, is it
Professor Adams: I believe there
are guidelines about that.
Q386 Mr Marsden: Professor Adams,
you said at the beginning that you thought the situation currently
in terms of recruiting governors was mixed across the country.
Do you think overall the proposals of this White Paper will help
or hinder the recruitment of governors in schools?
Professor Adams: I think it will
probably be neutral.
Q387 Mr Marsden: You think it is
a cost-neutral effect? Are there any aspects of it you think will
make life easier or difficult at all?
Professor Adams: I cannot think
of anything that would be particularly problematic. If the thrust
of the proposed reforms is to increase the amount of responsibility
coming to school governing bodies, frankly I do not think that
would be universally welcome.
Q388 Mr Marsden: We have only got
six paragraphs in which to do it. Mr Butler, can I pursue the
issue of the parents' council in trust schools. We have heard
concerns about trying to get parents involved anyway, are you
worried that you could have a situation where there would be a
conflict set up in a trust school between a parents councils'
view and the view of the trust governing body? Let me give you
a concrete example of where a group of parents who are reasonably
representative of the parental community are very unhappy about
the activities of a particular teacher but the trust governing
body is quite happy with him or her, and maybe there are other
examples as well. I am asking you to focus on is there an institutional
tension between those two bodies.
Mr Butler: There is a difference
though, is there not, because a parents' council is an advisory
body as distinct from a trust board or a board of governors which
is a managerial body. We often have discussions and debates with
parents who are involved in schools and we say to them, "It
is great if you get a level of engagement with the school or with
the head teacher. Please welcome any approach from the head for
that engagement, but remember at the end of the day, the people
who are responsible for the management of that school are the
head, their leadership team and the governing body and because
your advice is being sought, it does not mean that necessarily
is going to be what is carried forward". Therefore, a parents'
council is advisory. Yes, you could get that tension, but that
tension is not going to exist if we did or did not have the White
Q389 Mr Marsden: At the moment, because
there is direct stakeholder and, some would argue, potentially
substantial parent representation on the governing body, the ability
of the parents' council in that situation to say, "No one
is taking any notice of parents' views", is limited. You
could have a situation, could you not, where because parental
representation on a trust schools' governing body was pretty limited,
the objections or the concerns of that particular parents' council
would have that much more force?
Mr Butler: I am not so sure that
would differ from a situation of a parental concern with an existing
governing body which did have high parental representation. My
experience is that when a governing body comes together, it comes
together as a body corporate. Usually, when you sit around a governing
table, there will be some people who have been put in there by
their local authority, some who have been elected from the teaching
staff and some who have been elected from the parent body, but
when they meet together, they meet with the interests of the school
as a whole. I am not so sure that necessarily they are saying
there, with this huge badge across their chest, "I am a parent,
listen to what I am saying as a parent".
Q390 Mr Marsden: I agree with you.
With respect, that is an idealised view. In situations of conflict,
and obviously they are a minority, certainly it is my experience
in my own constituency that people do retreat to their producer
or their consumer interest areas.
Mr Butler: I think then we come
back to the point I was making before the parents' council is
an advisory body, the body that has the power to manage and cast
the authority is the governing body.
Q391 Mr Marsden: Ms Windass, in the
NGC's written submission to the Select Committee, you say in section
4.5, paragraph one, that you are concerned that the academy's
programme is being used as a model for the governing bodies of
trust schools. Is that because you think the academy's model is
currently not a very good model or because you think there is
no need for trust schools at all, therefore why do we need a separate
model which is based on an academy model?
Ms Windass: I think it is a bit
of both. NGC does have concerns about the model of governance
in academies in that it is appointed by the sponsors.
Q392 Mr Marsden: Are these theoretical
concerns or are they based on specific cases that you have already
seen with the governance of academies?
Ms Windass: It is a general concern
that the model of governance in academies is not necessarily representative
of the local community, it is not the stakeholder of local governance
as it is in most other schools where you have a third of elected
parental representation. The academy's model is different, the
sponsor has the right to appoint the majority of the governing
body in perpetuity. We think there should be more local representation.
Q393 Mr Marsden: Even though we have
heard that trusts will not have the same freedoms of manoeuvres
as academies, in terms of where you see it, from the point of
view of the parental community and the governing community, academies
and trust schools sit in one section as being less representative
of their views as opposed to the rest. Would that be a fair characterisation
of your comment?
Ms Windass: The fact that the
majority of the governing body could be appointed by a trust,
yes, does concern us in the sense that it could be unrepresentative
of the local community, unlike current schools, and going on to
the fact that we already have very good community schools and
very good voluntary controlled, voluntary-aided and foundation
schools which do not have this model of governance. The academy
model has not been around long enough for an effective evaluation
of whether it is the best model.
Q394 Mr Marsden: It is conceptual,
it is not that you have got existing horror stories from academies?
Ms Windass: No.
Q395 Mr Marsden: Professor Adams,
you were quite dismissive about the overall effect of the White
Paper in terms of your particular area, certainly beneficially.
What would you like to have seen in the White Paper that would
have made a real difference to governors that is not there?
Professor Adams: The most important
issue for school governors is their ability to do the job. I think
there is an important issue about their constituency and where
they come from. Gillian talked about the stakeholder model, it
is clearly not the only way of running a school, but it is the
model that we have and it relates very closely to a number of
concerns in other agendas, like the Every Child Matters
agenda, to the concept of community. My real concern about the
ability of a trust school, or any other organisation, to appoint
clashes with that. There is an important issue there. The real
concern I have, which I think I said earlier on, is that governing
bodies now are "running" very substantial organisations
and they have virtually no resources to do that with, they simply
have to do it on their own. They are very grateful to the governor
support units that most local authorities operate, but they are
Q396 Mr Marsden: You would like to
have seen a bit more of a "pot of gold" in the White
Paper to devote those resources or not?
Professor Adams: I would not have
used the phrase a "pot of gold".
Q397 Mr Marsden: A few coins perhaps!
Professor Adams: Neither that.
I think an injunction on school governors to take professional
advice, and to be required to do so, would help. The reason they
do not, as I am sure you well know, is it would be a call on the
school budget, so they do not do that.
Q398 Mr Chaytor: Professor Adams,
you referred to the gap between high performing and low performing
schools in your opening remarks, do you think the extension of
parental choice as the base of the admission system will increase
or decrease the gap between those two council schools?
Professor Adams: I guess it could
go either way depending on how that parental choice is exercised.
I am not sure the proposals in the White Paper will diminish that
Q399 Mr Chaytor: Do you think the
operation of choice as it is now, and developed over the last
few years, has influenced the gap in any way for better or worse?
Professor Adams: Your Committee
has discussed at some length the whole issue of admissions and
reported on it, and I think that is where the issue lies for things
like oversubscribed schools. We, as an organisation, would support
the Code of Practice becoming mandatory rather than voluntary
as it is at the moment. How that choice is exercised is the crucial