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Governor Guide

Welcome to the essential reference for governors in the Vale Academy Trust.

We very much appreciate that the role of a governor can be 'information-rich, but time-poor', and we know there's a sea of education information out there, which can make it difficult to focus on the important things.  This is why we created this guide, to make it as straightforward as possible to find key information and resources that can be trusted.  Whether you're new to the role or a seasoned veteran, you'll want to make this guide your companion on your governor journey.

Please bookmark this page, so you can find it quickly when you need to (it's a 'hidden page', which simply means it's not listed in the site's main menu).

Your feedback on this guide is most welcome.  Please email Vicky Roberts at vroberts@vale-academy.org


CONTENTS

Click an item to jump to the section.

GET ONBOARD: New governor?  Start here

GET ENGAGED: Become part of the team

GET INFORMED: Key things all governors need to know and do

TOOLKIT: Information and tools for all governors


GET ONBOARD

Six things you MUST DO before you can be confirmed as a governor:

  1. If you haven't already done so, please complete the 'Governance Application Form', which you can download from the Governor Guide Library, and email the completed document to your clerk (in Word format, please, not PDF).
  2. Complete the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) process. Your clerk will ask the school office staff to initiate this process, and you will receive instructions for completing it online.
  3. Read and complete the Conflicts of Interest and Loyalty Policy, which you can download from the Governor Guide Library, and email the completed document to your clerk (in Word format, please, not PDF).
  4. Read and accept the Code of Conduct for Governors. This is an online form, which takes about five minutes to complete.
  5. Confirm you have read your school’s Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy, and the DfE’s Keeping Children Safe in Education (Part one & Part two). The Safeguarding and Child Protection Policy can be found on your school's website. When you have read these, please confirm you have done so by completing this online Safeguarding Confirmation Form.
  6. Confirm you have read the Gifts and Hospitality Policy and the Whistleblowing Procedure, both of which can be found on the Policies page of the Trust's website. When you have read these, please confirm you have done so by completing this online Policy and Procedure Confirmation Form.

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GET Engaged

A checklist to help you become an effective member of your team:

  • Get connected with your clerk.  As a member of the Trust’s professional governance team, your clerk works closely with your LGB chair, and is your 'go to person' for all things governance related.
  • Get your Trust email address and login details for the VLE. For data protection reasons, the Trust requires every governor (and trustee) to use a Trust email address for all school and Trust related email communications.  Your clerk will ask the Trust’s ICT department to set this up for you and it will become active after you have completed the DBS process. The VLE is the Trust’s cloud-based intranet, and the place where you can find a calendar, past minutes, agenda and other key documents. Your clerk will provide you with sign-in details.
  • Add the LGB meeting and Governance Development dates to your diary. The VLE calendar holds the dates for the LGB meetings and the Governance Development sessions.  Note: we run four or five Governance Development sessions each year and attendance is strongly encouraged. As well as a chance to network with other governors, you’ll benefit from presentations on subjects such as safeguarding, pupil premium, school improvement and school finance.  Subject to Covid 19 guidance, some or all meetings may be held remotely using video conferencing.
  • Connect with the Trust’s Head of Governance & Policy.  They will provide you with a Trust-wide view of governance & policy, and take you through the Scheme of Delegated Authority (SoDA), which defines how responsibilities are assigned from the Trust’s Board to the LGB.  You can find a copy of the SoDA on the Governance page of the Trust's website.
  • Complete ‘An Introduction to School Governance’. This excellent e-Learning module from Governors for Schools is one hour in length and has been developed for new and existing governors. We recommend that you complete this module as one of the very first things you do, and certainly before attending your first LGB meeting. The module is free of charge, but you’ll need to register first to access it.
  • Complete the online Governor Skills Review – takes about fifteen minutes.  Every school in the Trust looks to have a well-balanced LGB in terms of skills and experience.  To help towards this, each governor is asked to complete a skills review, which is then fed into the Team Skills Matrix held by your LGB chair.  The skills review is not a test, rather, the information is used to identify governance development priorities and assist in recruitment and succession planning.
  • Read your school’s latest Ofsted report.  This may be on your school’s website, but you can also find it on the Ofsted website or via the Compare School Performance website.
  • If yours is a Church of England school, read the Church inspection report.  As well as Ofsted inspections, Church schools are subject to SIAMS inspections (Church inspections).  You should see the latest SIAMS report on your school’s website, but you can also find it on the A Church Near You website.  Search using the school’s postcode or town.  On the results page, untick the church box and tick the school box.  You should then see a link for the inspection report.
  • Meet the headteacher and tour the school. As well as meeting your headteacher and other senior staff, this is an opportunity for you to get a feel for how the school operates during a normal day.  Please note, these meetings should be arranged in consultation with your LGB chair, and are subject to Covid 19 restrictions.
  • Prepare for the LGB meetings. A week before each LGB meeting, the VLE is updated with all papers relevant to the meeting.  It is very important to the smooth-running and effectiveness of the meeting that you read the paperwork beforehand and turn up informed and ready to present your questions.
  • Attend other meetings as an observer. Ask your chair about any meetings s/he feels are appropriate for you to observe.

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GET Informed

Key things all governors need to know and do:

  • Become a frequent visitor to your school’s website. It’s your window on the latest news, events and key data.
  • Don't forget the Trust's website. To stay in touch with the latest Trust news, events and key data.
  • Review the data about your school held on the DfE's Compare School Performance website, including progress scores, Ofsted reports and much more.
  • Discover the high-quality (and free) e-Learning modules on the Governors for Schools website. Topics include school finance, school performance data and school improvement.  Once registered, you can start a course, take a break, and pick up again from where you left off.
  • Become familiar with school data.  Governors must have access to objective, high quality and timely data if they are to ensure and embed robust accountability and know the questions that need to be asked of the school leaders.  The data might include information on pupil learning and progress, pupil applications, admissions, attendance, exclusions, staff deployment, absence, recruitment, retention, morale, performance, and the quality of teaching. If you’re new to school data it might seem a little daunting at first, but once you understand what systems and reports are available you’ll be surprised at how quickly you can get up to speed.  To help you get started, here’s a few things you can do:
    • Review this helpful guidance from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) on Understanding School Data.
    • Take a look at the data available for your school on the DfE’s Compare School Performance website.
    • Ask the headteacher for a copy of recent reports and talk through the performance data.
    • Review the free e-Learning module Performance Data for Governors
    • Meet with the Trust’s Director of Education for an introductory session looking at systems, reports and school data (your chair or clerk can arrange this meeting for you).
  • Learn about school resource management and financial efficiency. Take a look at the DfE’s Top 10 Planning Checks for Governors, which governors can use as a starting point to check if their school is managing resources and finances effectively.  You can also review this free e-Learning module Finance for Governors.
  • Understand you role in the school development cycle.  Governors have a hugely important part to play in the school development cycle, particularly in the review of the Self-Evaluation Form (SEF).  Ask your chair or headteacher for a copy of the school development plan and the most recent SEF, and take a look at the Trust guidance document ‘The Role of Governors in Supporting and Challenging School Self-Evaluation’, which you can find in the Governor Guide Library.
  • Questions you should be asking in your LGB meetings. A key part of a governor’s role is holding the headteacher to account for the performance of the school and its pupils.  Knowing the right kinds of questions to ask, and how and when to ask them, isn’t always obvious, but there’s help at hand for this.  From the Governor Guide Library you can download the document ‘Questions for LGB Governors to Ask’, which covers a range of subjects and has many questions that governors can ask of the school leaders, and of themselves.
  • Preparing for an Ofsted inspection.  If your school is likely to be facing an Ofsted inspection soon, you will want to download the document ‘Ofsted Inspections - Q&A for Governors’ which can be found in the Governor Guide Library.

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Toolkit

Helpful tools and information for all governors:

  • The Governance Handbook. This is the DfE's definitive reference for governance.  It's a very long document, so you probably won't want to read it end to end, but we do recommend that you familiarise yourself with its contents as you’ll want to dip in and out throughout your governorship.
  • Welcome to Governance handbook (hardcopy). A very useful and informative publication from the National Governance Association (NGA).  Primarily intended for those new to governance, it is also recommended as a refresher for existing governors. The Trust purchases this publication in bulk.  If you haven’t yet received your copy please ask your clerk. 
  • Parent View is an Ofsted website where a parent/carer can give their views about their child’s school.  This is an important website to know about because Ofsted pays close attention to these comments, particularly when a school is due to be inspected.   In fact, if enough negative comments are left for a school, it could even trigger an early inspection. Users who are not parents or carers (for example headteachers, governors or other interested parties) are able to register on the site and receive alerts when submissions are added to a particular school, but they are not able to complete a submission for a school (this particular functionality is only available to parents and carers).
  • Get Information About Schools. The Department for Education’s online register of educational establishments.  Here you can find information about trustees and governors for trusts and schools.
  • National Governance Association (NGA). The Trust is a member of the NGA, which means that all governors can access their services, including their very useful online training service, ‘Learning Link’. Your clerk will provide you with sign-in details.
  • The Key for School Governors. Packed with useful information and guidance.  A paid membership is required to get full advantage.  Ask your chair or clerk if your school has membership.
  • Confused by the terms used in education? Use the NGA’s Education Glossary, and you’ll soon be an expert!  The link takes you to the NGA home page, where you’ll find the glossary on the bottom left.

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