Lord Hill of Oareford, parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools, explains why governors are `something we should celebrate'
One of the best things about my job is the chance to go to schools and meet inspiring heads and great teachers. Most important of all, I get to meet children who are a world apart from the negative picture often portrayed in the press.
But there will be someone else who I will be keen to meet too: a school governor. I never fail to be struck by their commitment to the school and the huge contribution they make, often over many years. That voluntary tradition, kept alive by some 300,000 people up and down the country, is extremely precious and it is something we should celebrate.
When people talk about schools, a lot of attention is rightly given to heads. But increasingly more attention is being given to governors, and so it should be. After all, they are the top strategic body in the school. They appoint the heads. And it is they, ultimately, who have responsibility for the performance of the school - when things go well, and when they don't.
I am keen to do what I can to help governors in that vital job. There are a number of areas where we have been concentrating, and where I hope we can now make more progress:
making sure governors have easy access to useful information about the performance of their school
scaling back unnecessary regulations that get in the way of the job governors signed up to do
freeing schools to have more choice over the size and composition of their governing bodies
helping support them in their work
Getting the right information
Information is a very powerful tool in helping to ask the right questions and in holding heads and the senior leadership to account. But I know it is not always easy to get your hands on what you need - and if you don't know what is available, you can't know what to ask for. Governors may not be able to access school performance data. They may feel they only see what the head wants them to see. Or they may be overwhelmed by the sheer volume and complexity of what is there. We have published more benchmarking data and made significant improvements to the school performance tables.
Governors, along with heads and parents, can now compare more easily the performance of their school with those in similar circumstances. They can now consider their school's performance not just in comparison with the school down the road, but in the context of schools around the country in similar circumstances. In addition, NGA's recently published guides to RAISEonline should make it easier than ever for governors to make the most of this rich resource.
But the volume of data and its technical content can be too much for busy governors to wade through and interpret. They need sharply focused, reliable and relevant information that will tell them how well the school is doing for all its pupils. They need to know where the strengths and weaknesses are. Then they need the right support to use this information to ask the right questions. So I am working with Ofsted, the National College for School Leadership, NGA and others to look at how wecan improve governing bodies' access to reliable and relevant data.
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