Friday, 17 July 2009

End of year praise

Having been to two Leavers' Assemblies today, I find myself humbled by what I have seen and heard. We help educate some of the most challenged pupils in Leeds and it has been an education and deeply moving to see and hear about their achievements.

Ranging from one lad who has never missed a day's school in his life, to another who represented the school at a whole range of sports, to others who have achieved academic success that might not have been thought possible, others who have learned social skills that come naturally to most of us, and so on... Some are going on to college, some will stay on into our sixth form and all will remember the time they spent with us, as I will remember the time I spent with them today. What a pleasure to be with pupils who have not lost the innocence of childhood, who find pleasure in the simplest things and who reward you with their recognition.

I cannot praise these pupils too highly, nor indeed the staff who cope with the huge range of needs with a smile and patience and forbearance that goes beyond expectation. Every one of them deserves a relaxing break and to come back refreshed and keen to make a difference to the lives not only of our pupils but of their families and friends.

Thank you to everyone I have seen and spoken to today - I feel truly humbled by your abilities.

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

The challenge of all-age, multiple site governance

At one of 'my' schools, we have just been reviewing our effectiveness as a GB - we run an all-age (3 to 19) special school on several sites including some mainstream partnerships. The discussion got to a point where we started to explore the governance issues associated with this unusual beast.

Stereotypically, primary GBs are much more involved/active than secondaries who tend to be more 'directorial'/strategic. Most schools only operate from one site that they 'own' (although federations challenge this model).

So the question we are to explore is

How can we be effective governors in an all-age special school meeting a range of learning needs in a variety of educational settings?

I feel sure that there are some specific challenges in this arena and wonder what you out there might be able to add to our deliberations?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Policy or Practice?

Well, finally back in action after a belated honeymoon in Italy and I have been trawling the posts in one of my other favourite forums, UKGovernors. This one took my attention, relating to the importance of Policy and/or Practice. The specific content is of less relevance to this post than the principle of whether we should be concentrating on Policy or Practice.

If the school does what it should with regard to race, the existence of a written policy is of minimal importance. A challenge would surely only come if your practice was bad.

I agree and yet we come across too many "ticky box" administrators/auditors of one sort or another - I used to have a running 'discussion' with the regulators of my former industry who seemed more interested in the process than the outcomes (even threatened us with enforcement action once because we did not follow the procedure even though had we done so the outcome would have been worse for our customers!).

There seems to be a common development route with regulators (of which I have considerable experience - honestly!) who start with the paperwork (Are you following the rules? Have you got the right Policies?), move on to implementation (What procedures do you have? Prove to me that you follow your policy), before finally landing on outcomes (How do your customers/stakeholders feel they have been treated?).

The point of this little piece is to ask you to check where on this spectrum your regulator/auditor has reached. If they are still in the ticky box phase then you need to tick the boxes, if they have progressed then you need to do something else. Personally, I am interested in outcomes and all the paperwork is incidental. however I recognise that sometimes we need to make sure the paper is there.