Emma Knights, CEO of the of the National Governance Association (NGA), in her recent piece for Schools Week paid tribute to ‘overlooked’ governors and trustees who spend a great deal of time supporting and challenging schools as one of the largest volunteer groups.
At the NGA conference last weekend, both the Education Secretary, Damian Hinds and his Labour equivalent, Angela Rayner, at an NGA conference echoed calls for greater support for governors, especially in relation to SEND. This is timely as DYT prepares to officially publish the SEND governance review guide on 27thJune, although you can already access this brand-new resource from our dedicated website – www.sendgov.co.uk
The SEND Governance Review Guide
Part-funded by DfE and DYT, it the guide is a self-evaluation tool for governors and trustees written and produced by governors, trustees, and representatives from educational bodies, including the NGA. Much of the work that went into the guide is a credit to them, and it has been a privilege to coordinate this group and work with them.
Around 17% of young people in mainstream schools are likely to have SEN at any given time and this is increasing as Local Authorities seek to place more and more children with SEND in mainstream settings. It is vital that Governing Boards are equipped to ensure the right questions are asked that can support inclusion, appropriate CPD and training in SEND and promote an ethos and culture that is inclusive of those children, if they are to achieve the outcomes they deserve. This is a corporate responsibility and not simply that of one named SEND Governor and this is why the guide is aimed at governing boards generally. Of course, this is not just about school governors, it is also needs to be an important focus for academy trustees who might be overseeing the education of tens of thousands of young people nationwide.
A practical resource
I have written previously about a particular experience I had as the ‘SEND’ governor and how this entirely changed my understanding of the silo-ed nature of governance. As a chair I continue to try and join the dots across the multiple functions of the board, constantly balancing what we should be doing for our children, staff and the wider community with budgets, contracts and the law.
In my experience, support for governors on issues relating to SEND just aren’t practical enough and as chair there are dozens of other priorities to address each year. That’s why we have drawn heavily from the governance handbook and competency framework and used the language governors will already be familiar with. Covering the ‘six features’ of effective governance the guide highlights where special educational needs and disability fits across strategic planning. SEND is not just an issue of compliance or teaching and learning, we keenly recognise the importance of providing a ‘whole-school’ perspective.
Working across different settings
Our approach draws on experience of mainstream, special and post-16 settings because we wanted to reaffirm the key principles of effective governance, even for those whose settings which are predominantly set up to educate young people with SEND.
Whilst special schools will usually consider SEND strategically already, we want governors to reflect on the impact their decision-making in areas which might seem separate from the young people, can ultimately end up affecting them. Finance and personnel, especially in times of challenging budgets, are obvious examples of where decisions can often be driven by other priorities that may not be in the best interests of our young people.
Download the guide
We hope the guide will start a conversation about the role of governors and enable them to more effectively hold leaders accountable for the outcomes of a group of young people, which have been consistently dire for decades.