The DfE’s Schools White Paper: What does it mean for Governance?

As I’m sure you are aware, at the end of March the DfE released their widely awaited white paper – Opportunity for all: strong schools with great teachers for your child.

The paper provided an insight into future national education policy and, as expected, had a strong indication towards a full trust based education system in the UK with the majority of schools (90%) being within or in the process of joining a MAT by 2030. It is worth noting at this point that the white paper is not legally mandated – but rather to set out the Government’s vision for education policy.

The paper is separated into 4 clear chapters:

  1. School improvement and what is needed for the teaching profession
  2. Curriculum and the minimum expectation of the length of the school week
  3. Targeted support including the parent pledge on engagement and broadening the use of pupil premium funding
  4. A stronger and fairer school system – aka the move to a fully trust based education system

What does a stronger and fairer school system mean?

The DfE is focusing on the development of a “family of schools” and aims to have all schools within or joining a “strong trust” by 2030. A “strong trust” exhibits:

  • High quality and inclusive education
  • School improvement
  • Strategic governance
  • Strong and effective financial management
  • A strong workforce including prioritisation of staff wellbeing

What does strategic governance look like within a “strong trust”?

  • An effective and robust governance structure
  • The involvement of schools and exemplification of ethical standards
  • Utilising the expertise and skills on it’s board to oversee strategic direction and hold senior leaders to account
  • Inclusion of a strong local identity that effectively engages with parents and members of the wider community

Local governance arrangements

The paper was very clear about the continued need for trust’s to have local governance arrangement in place. The NGA has suggested some key local governance expectations including:

  • The importance of separation between the 3 distinct governance layers within a trust (Members/Trustees/Local Governance) to ensure accountability but also the need for 2-way communication and clear delegation between each layer
  • The investment in lead governance professionals to provide professional, expert advice
  • The acceptance of meaningful challenge
  • For local governance to be formed of local volunteers, not executives
  • For Trust Boards to be visible to local governance and local governors having input in the performance management and recruitment of headteachers as well as contribute to school improvement and be aware of the school’s budget plan
  • For a trust-wide development plan that encourages local governors to learn from schools outside their trust

Other key take home points

  • The DfE wants to eliminate the number of “empty” MATs with a trajectory for Trusts to have a minimum of 7,500 pupils or 10 schools
  • No upper limit has been placed on the number of pupils or schools within a MAT but organisations will not be be able to run indefinitely without excellent outcomes
  • Better regulatory procedures will be put in place for trusts including new statutory intervention powers
  • Good and outstanding schools may request being moved to a stronger trust in exceptional circumstances
  • Local Authorities will remain at the heart of the education system with new powers to deliver legal responsibilities
  • New standards will be introduced for MATs including collaboration standards to ensure the best outcomes for children

Additional thoughts and next steps

Although the white paper didn’t particularly hold any new huge announcements it was useful to have clarity on the DfE’s strategic vision for national education policy and reflect on where we are within our own establishments. The big take-home items for me would be the recognition of the need for investment in lead Governance Professionals, the continued need for local governance (and so local Clerks) and the LA’s continued role at the heart of the education system.

What are your thoughts on the white paper? Has this kick-started any conversations within your establishment?

Upcoming workshops

Clerking with Confidence Workshop Summer 1 – Monday 16th May 10-12pm, £15

Exclusions Workshop in collaboration with Sarah Shortt from Brighter Futures for Children – Monday 23rd May 10-12pm, £50.40

Compliance Workshop – Wednesday 22nd June 10-12pm, £30

I could also run an additional Company Secretary Workshop if there is enough interest.

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All my best

Ellie

elliehully@proclerking.com

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Published by Ellie Hully

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