Taking the plunge with GovernorHub

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It’s not easy to change long-standing ways of working and replace a database system that’s been in use for many years.

So when a local authority decides to adopt GovernorHub for its statutory record keeping and provide board software to all of its schools, we do our best to make the process as smooth and stress-free as possible.

Oldham Governor Services went live with GovernorHub in January 2021. Recently we caught up with manager Gerri Barry to find out how it went.

Firstly Gerri, what was behind your decision to go with GovernorHub?

Well, we liked GovernorHub. It’s easy-to-use and provides document storage and key information all in one place. We also loved that it had been designed by governors for governors. It gave us the digital solution we were looking for. I also know of other local authorities who use it and spoke highly of it.

How did you find the process of us importing your data?

It was really straightforward; we just needed to adapt our data to meet your requirements. We had to do a bit of back office preparation work – swapping things around and standardising the language but once we sent it to you, the transition was very quick and smooth. I would say that spending time to prepare your data is important. 

There were just a couple of anomalies where governors already existed in the system and came up as a duplicate record but the GovernorHub support team quickly merged those records for us. The team have been happy to listen to our ideas and incorporate some of our suggestions to improve the system where they can. We also share any feedback we get from governors and Headteachers too.

We’ve been monitoring the progress of governors who’ve registered as a benchmark to see how it is going. The good news is that we’re up to 96% which we think is a pretty good achievement in the timescale, although we still had to send out one or two reminders to encourage some governors to register!  What we say to the governors who are worried about using it is,“If you can shop online you can use GovernorHub!”

That’s great – once the data was standardised, it was easy then?

Yes, once we provided you with the data and you imported it, it was done very quickly – within a couple of days. There was no delay and it was launched straight away. When we asked Hannah to hit the ‘go live’ button [Hannah is our Operations Manager at GovernorHub], she did and off we went. She also gave us access to some areas of GovernorHub before governors could see it so that we could add standard folders, documents and logos for each school which got them off to a good start.

Were you well supported through that process? 

Yes, we were really well supported. We were speaking to Hannah regularly and asking her how to do things. She’s been great with the team. We’ve also been feeding back several ideas on how to improve the system.

If it can’t be done, it can’t be done – and you’re up front with us about that and the reasons why but if it can be done, Hannah will take it away and have a chat and sometimes you’ve been able to quickly amend things for us. Occasionally we’re asking for things because we’re gravitating back to our old ways of working and Hannah has steered us back on track to our new ways of working now that we have a digital solution. That’s a transition we have to come to terms with. People get comfortable with how they work, don’t they? Even if it is an old-fashioned way. We’re having to say to ourselves, ‘that is the old way and we’re doing it the new way now.’

Were there any hiccups and were we able to resolve them?

There were a few hiccups with governor duplication as some governors were already on the system. We also had a few issues with permissions for two boards who were already using the system. We needed confirmation from those schools to move their personal data over and unfortunately we’d left it to the last week of term to do this – we could have done with knowing who they were beforehand, but we resolved it quickly and it was fine.

We had a few little bugs in the system but they were resolved really quickly too. Then it’s just been about us learning how to use GovernorHub. We find something new most days.

Did we give you adequate training?

Yes – the training’s been good. We haven’t had a problem as GovernorHub is a user-friendly system. Some people in the team are finding different ways to do things and then sharing it and we’re kind of learning from each other at the moment. As well as using the GovernorHub help tutorials we have also made a few quick guides of our own that we share with governors and staff.

I’d say we probably do more than most local authorities as we’ve organised ‘GovernorHub Tours’ and ‘Drop-In Sessions’ for governors, schools, Headteachers and School Business Managers. They’re being hosted by the members of our team who’re the most confident with the system.

For some of the more resistant schools, we’ve actually gone along and done a demo to their governing board as well. We’ve put quite a lot of effort into that.

We ask clerks to give new governors a tour. So as well as giving the board a tour at the first board meeting when it first went live, they also give new governors a tour, either a separate session or they’ll ask a governor to stay on at the end of a meeting. That’s just to help them and give them confidence.

We have had some resistance from governors, headteachers and schools. They didn’t want to move away from their old ways of working – email and paper – but we’ve worked closely with them and we’re overcoming the barriers. Again, with some of our longer standing governors who’ve been a bit frightened of the system we arranged to talk them through it and show them around – just to take the fear away and give them some confidence. Once they use it, they’re fine – it’s just getting them to use it.

What’s the feedback been from governors?

On the whole we’ve had lots of positive feedback – once governors and staff get their head around GovernorHub, they like it, especially those who are at more than one school. In the beginning, we had mixed feedback. Some didn’t want to start using another new system, as they were still learning about remote meetings but they’re getting there.

Initially governors and Headteachers said they were getting more emails – but that’s not the case and actually it’s something they can now control more easily from within GovernorHub themselves.

So far so good then?

Yes that’s right, some boards have only had one meeting, some two.

Our clerks are very positive – they didn’t have much feedback on ways to improve the system. They’re all committed to learning the system and getting governors to use it.

I’d definitely 100% recommend GovernorHub to other LAs if they’re thinking about using it. I like the fact we get news feeding in from the DfE and the council on the system too and that all governors have access to this information daily as well.

Do you think GovernorHub can improve governance?

Yes I do. For us at the moment, we’ve just launched it and we’re mostly managing this change with governors, so they accept it and are confident to use it. Next term we can start thinking about what else we can develop with governors on GovernorHub.

Information is all in one place now and up-to-date. Governors can access it 24/7, whereas before they’d have to manage the information themselves in their email inboxes. I’ve even demonstrated the system to some senior council officers as well so they can see the quality of the information the governors are getting. This week it’s been great seeing governors posting messages and sharing training information with other governors on their school noticeboards. So I would say yes, it goes a long way to improving school governance.

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