These are two important questions that are often overlooked when the day to day running of the school takes over.
Some governors seem to never quite get to the core of their organisation’s purpose. The level of detail in the responsibility of stewardship can be all-consuming meaning that the fundamental questions of why the organisation exists and who it is for are given insufficient consideration. But boards do not exist to micro-manage a school; instead they should complement management by asking a different set of questions – this is true governance.
The what? and who? questions are also recognised by the regulator of charities in England and Wales. The Charity Commission defines six hallmarks of an effective charity and the first one is about being clear on a charity’s purposes and direction: ‘An effective charity is clear about its purposes, mission and values and uses them to direct all aspects of its work’.
Nonetheless accountability is important. Financial oversight is critical and school board members will always have ultimate fiduciary responsibility. But they need to be allied to the organisation’s core purpose. Good governance is about setting the agenda, challenging assumptions about the school, and identifying the underlying values that drive strategy to determine ‘what exactly are we trying to accomplish?’.
Governors should ask themselves, what sort of school do we want to be? This will include consideration of academic issues such as admissions policies and class sizes, but will also extend beyond this to consideration of public benefit and bursary policies, community involvement, other sources of income and overall culture.
Download the full report to discover what success looks like, including our top five good governance indicators.