How well does your governing body communicate and collaborate?

How well does your governing body communicate and collaborate?

It’s something Ofsted will consider during an inspection and, if Someries Infant School in Luton is anything to go by, making good use of GovernorHub will help.

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Someries Infant School
Paula Murgatroyd is Chair of Governors at Someries Infant School in Luton.

How well organised is your governing board? It’s something Ofsted will consider during an inspection and, if Someries Infant School in Luton is anything to go by, making good use of GovernorHub will help.

When Headteacher Jenny Meara was talking to Ofsted during an inspection last year, she found herself mentioning GovernorHub on several occasions. Jenny was explaining how the Governing Body operates and how it shares tasks and information.

The Inspector said she’d be interested to find out more and Jenny was able to open up GovernorHub on her school computer and show where documents are stored, how they’re accessed and how governors communicate using the shared Noticeboard. The Inspector was sufficiently impressed to include it in her final report:

“Communication between the school and governing body is extremely efficient and the ‘GovernorHub’ provides an effective means to ensure that all governors can carry out duties collaboratively. Documents and task sharing are held centrally and securely enabling a smooth allocation of policy revision and governor duties.”

Ofsted 21-22 February 2017

The school, previously rated Good, was judged to be Outstanding in all areas. There are 10 governors on the board; 5 co-opted members, 2 parent governors, Headteacher Jenny Meara and a fellow staff member. Jenny says she’s lucky to have a very effective governing body with a strong shared interest in the school, which is reflected in well-attended meetings.

A few years ago, to improve communication, Chair of Governors Paula Murgatroyd, pictured above, says they made a decision to ask all governors to attend every committee meeting:

“We made the move a while ago. It means everybody hears everything. We were lucky that governors were able and willing to come to three meetings a term but we’ve found it’s really helped.”

Another reason the governing body works well, according to Headteacher Jenny, is the dynamic of the group:

“We have a very open Governing Body. Some Governing Boards are dominated by one or two individuals, but it’s not the case with us. Everyone is proactive, everyone feels they can ask questions.”

Paula says the atmosphere in meetings is very relaxed and Jenny is happy to be challenged:

“We can freely ask questions and Jenny will always give answers. We can challenge and Jenny doesn’t feel threatened by that. It works well.”

From Jenny’s point of view, creating an atmosphere in which people can ask questions is important:

“We have truly got nothing to hide. If we’ve got a problem, we will talk it through. I know as a Headteacher it might be tempting not to share everything with governors but I believe it’s important to be as open and frank as possible.”

Recently Jenny’s been considering building a wall between the Reception and Year 1 learning areas, to address some issues arising from the open-plan nature of the teaching area. She says in cases like this, the governing body will often get up from their chairs to have a look:

“When I raised the idea of a wall at a Governing Body meeting, we were able to get up and take a look at the classroom. Governors could see exactly what I meant and were able to make their own suggestions as well.”

A few years ago, Someries Infant was considering a possible amalgamation with the junior school with which it shares a site. Jenny says GovernorHub came into its own as a space for governors to work together to investigate the potential impact of such a move:

“We set up a specific folder for each committee area on GovernorHub and governors were able to contribute documents and questions regarding the impact of an amalgamation. It allowed for effective collaboration and prepared us well.”

Jenny says GovernorHub also allows for more efficient meetings. Documents are uploaded in advance and key documents can always be found online – Pupil Premium information, the School’s Self Evaluation Form and information about the Sports Premium.

“The expectation is that everything’s on the Hub. It’s ongoing – it’s not just minutes from previous meetings and agendas but anything we’re currently working on. For Governors, it means you don’t have to turn up to meetings with a big pile of paper.”

Paula says she often uses the GovernorHub app on her phone to read documents and stay abreast of what’s going on:

“I know when I’m on a lunch break and I need to look up something, I can just check it on my phone – a quick glance to refresh myself. It’s there and then – you can quickly go on to look at documents.”

It’s now more than a year since the school was inspected but the drive to improve continues. Paula says they certainly won’t be resting on their laurels:

“Jenny is always thinking of the next step. There are still places we want to go. There are still ways we can make improvements and enhance learning for the children. It’s not a case of sitting back and thinking we can relax now.”

For Jenny, it’s the nature of the school setting which keeps things moving:

“Staff change, children change – when you work in a school there are always new challenges.”

You can read the full inspection report for Someries Infant School in Luton here.

 

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