Neil Carmichael is the Member of Parliament for Stroud and a member of the Education Select Committee. Follow Neil on Twitter.
School governors and governance are now high on the policy agenda. The Education Select Committee is conducting a significant inquiry, Sir Michael Wilshaw, Chief Inspector of Schools, has focused OFSTED onto ‘school leadership and governance’ and our new All Party Parliamentary Group on School Leadership and Governance is holding regular meetings ar which standing room only is available to late comers. Ministers, too, are engaging with this debate.
Individual writers and contributors are also highlighting the need for reform, most notably and recently, Lord Adonis is his book “Education, Education, Education”. Longstanding organisations, including the National Governors Association. are turning up the volume in this increasingly robust debate.
There are two linked drivers behind this momentum. Firstly, governors and governance has hardly changed in generations. The battle over the control of schools has, up until now, been between local authorities and central government, characterised by such policies as represented by the Butler Education Act 1944, Circular 10/65 (Anthony Crosland’s request to local authorities to move to comprehensive schools) and the Education Act 1988 introducing, among other highlights, ‘Local Management of Schools’. None of these or other measures addressed the actual leadership and management of individual schools but, because of the impact of league tables and the spotlight now on failing schools, governance is becoming fair game for increasingly concerned parents, policy makers and public agencies.
The second driver is more specific and contemporary. Academies are springing up all over the country with their structures and, in particular, autonomy fuelling a debate about school accountability, role of sponsors and performance management issues for head teachers. Gone are the days when governors spent most of their time ratifying local authority derived policies.