THE strategic role of the governing body depends on setting rigorous targets and objectives during the autumn term - for the headteacher, as well as pupils.
Amendments to regulations issued in July allow the governing body to delegate responsibility for setting pupil performance targets to a committee, although many governing bodies find this a useful exercise for the full meeting.
Targets must be set for key stage 2 (Year 6) pupils achieving level 4 or above in national tests for English and maths. Secondary schools must set targets for Year 11 pupils achieving five or more grades A* to C at GCSE, and one or more grades A* to G.
Make use of the range of performance data available to set targets - don't just rely on the "headline" figures. Use the Department for Education and Employment's autumn package (which should already be in schools) and your individualised performance and assessment report (PANDA) from the Office for Standards in Education.
The school and the education authority should also have more detailed analyses of performance in individual subjects and comparisons with other schools. Remember that performance is relative and you need to have the whole-school picture.
Don't be confused by benchmarking, adding value and "chances" graphs. The key questions are: How well have we done? How well should we have done? How well have similar schoolschildren done?
Meanwhile, the gverning body also needs to agree objectives for the headteacher as part of the new performance management system introduced this term. Up to five or six objectives, covering pupil progress, leadership and management, and professional development, need to be agreed.
This task - which should be already underway - can be delegated to a group of two or three governors who are supported by an external adviser, paid for by the DFEE. DFEE training for governors should be available locally - check with your LEA.
As with pupil performance, it's important to make use of a wide range of performance data and other evidence about the context of the school when establishing headteacher objectives. These should also match up with the targets for the school - and tie in with the school's priorities in its improvement plan.
Governors as a whole also need to establish the performance management policy for the school by the end of December. The board's key role here is to ensure that the policy process has taken into account the views of staff as well as governors.
Remember, both targets and objectives are negotiated and agreed, not set or imposed, and monitoring procedures need to be established at the same time. School targets, negotiated with the education authority, should be realistic and achievable but should stretch the school - to help raise standards.
See www.standards.dfee.gov.uk for target-setting and pupil performance data, www.dfee.gov.uk.
circulars gives guidance for governors on headteacher performance management.