The economic situation is affecting the vast majority of commercial and public sector operations. Inevitable budget reviews by educational authorities have reassessed the funding and staffing levels associated with the teaching resources in our schools. Some new schools have the opportunity of self-control but whilst removing the essence of local education authorities allowing many schools to be in control of their own destiny may seem a positive move there is some concern as to how they will cope unaided in the wide world.
In the commercial world there are classic cases where a small company being part of a large group had failed to thrive in performance and profitability. The same company having been shed by the corporate group becomes in charge of its own destiny springs to the surface like a cork and suddenly enjoys resurgence with both enthusiasm and increased profitability. Can the same effect be found be enjoyed by these new schools? Certainly the sometimes arduous bureaucracy and target achievements demanded considerable focus from the head teacher, distracting them from taking a more parochial view of the needs of the school. The stories of stress and frustration are legion and the feeling of being remote to the needs of the school perhaps had a significant influence in the schools performance.
The many schools that now face the opportunity of reduced pressure and cost by their removal from local education authority control also face a mixture of opportunity and increased pressure to perform in their own right. But as schools gain greater independence there will also be a huge demand placed on school governors. These predominantly untrained individuals now face a whole new world of independence where their skill will be tested in the performance of the school.
Many of our schools could now enter a very confused period. After years of tight restrictive operational control they have the ropes removed. But the big question is whether the schools will cope? Have the years of bureaucracy prevented the nurture of skills required to manage themselves effectively? Ofsted the government schools inspection body has raised concerns about the quality of governance in schools and state that it is a common factor in schools that are under special measures.
Geraldine Hutchinson, assistant director of the Educational trust CfBT raises her concern. “Schools with governing bodies that are not up to the task can face serious consequences. Those schools that lack strong governance are at a significant disadvantage in terms of attainment and school improvement ”adding “This is particularly the case in primary schools which are a lot less robust than secondary schools I their ability to cope with change.”
The emergence of the academy and free school will place a demand for exceptional head teachers backed by effective school governors. Whereas it would be possible to recruit a head teacher from other parts of the country, although statistics indicate this is no easy task, the school will be a reliant upon local school governors. If this support is not available it bodes ill for the fortunes of that particular school. An area of encouragement is the number of people volunteering to become school governors has increased over the last few years. Although this may indicate a keen reserve of commitment they inevitably enter the role with little or no training. This places an awkward burden on the head teacher at the very point when they need an effective senior management team. Instead the head could be side-tracked into having to provide the on-site training for them.
The transition from the structure criticised over the years by teaching resources will be a travesty if another generation of children in our schools are hampered by ineffective control as they move into the new era. Maybe a better plan is the formal training and certification of school governors before the policy was introduced.