E … is for Exciting

Not the blog that I had first thought about writing, I was going to write about E for effectiveness or E for evaluation, but as this blog falls on a very important week for schools in England, I thought E is for Exciting! (Don’t worry I am sure effectiveness and evaluation will come up at some stage in the future).

There’s a lot of excitement this week in education. As you know this week, saw the return of all pupils to schools across England. I know that as a Mum, I was excited to pack my two off to school, knowing that the utmost care and attention had gone into the preparation for their return; and that they were super excited too.

To support the smooth and timely reopening, like many other parents and governors, I volunteered to support the mammoth task of conducting over 1300 Lateral Flow Tests - I even roped in the Husband. On the 4th and 5th March, we ran 20 testing stations, to ensure that children could return together on Monday. I am proud of how the community has stepped up and supported the school in gratitude for all the hard work of teachers and senior leaders.

I’m still in school over the next two weeks helping with the ongoing testing, prior to it being done at home, and that’s why this blog is a little late.

Not one to waste an opportunity, I have used the experience to talk to parents and other community members to gain their thoughts on how the school has run over the last year and more recently during the reopening and testing. Using the information to build a picture in my mind that will help inform our discussions at future governing meetings.

I have missed the opportunities to be in school, rather than on Zoom, so the insight was timely and invaluable. I think Zoom will have a place going forward, but you can’t beat being in school and absorbing the atmosphere first-hand.

I’ve continued to work with schools through out the pandemic, and I am impressed by the way that governance has flexed and responded, and that many boards have found ways to ‘see’ their school in action. Whether that be from using social media to monitor or by schools doing virtual tours. Once the testing has slowed, and hopefully a little normality resumes, there may be more opportunities to get back into school.

There has been much focus on risk assessments, rightly so, and this will need to continue, but I, like others are keen to return to the main purpose of a school - to help children reach their true potential in a happy and safe environment.

So here are my top tips for maintaining the excitement and preventing the overload!

  1. Wellbeing, Wellbeing, Wellbeing - of the children, of the staff, of the governors! Whilst it may seem to some that schools have now returned to normal, they are very far from ‘normal’. Make sure that you and your board understand the continuing pressures and seek ways to support staff to continue to do a great job.

  2. Support senior leaders with the ongoing risk assessment programme, ensuring that it remains up to date and accurately reflects guidance and school circumstances; including how you are meeting requirements for Lateral Flow Testing.

  3. Re-familiarise yourself with your School Development Plan. You’ll probably have two by now, a Covid specific one for the recovery, and also the usual improvement plan that you create every year. Get to know what is on both, and what you need to monitor.

  4. Did you stop or reduce monitoring certain things during lock down? Now is the time to work with senior leaders to plan for restarting these so that you are monitoring all aspects of the school. Try making a mind-map of all the things that you need to monitor and then divide out across the governing board to create your Governance Jigsaw - see D… is for Distribution - using everyone’s insight to make an impact.

  5. What are your Covid-keeps? Most boards, actually feel more aware of what the school is doing, as the number of meetings have tended to increase during lockdown. It is now timely to think about what aspects of remote governance you will keep in the future, and ones that you won’t. Consider a simple SOAR analysis (strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results) to guide you through what worked well, and the opportunities for using them going forward.

But most of all, enjoy! I wanted to become a governor see children grow and develop, and it will be lovely to get back to seeing this again sometime soon.

Next time, in my A-Z of Governance series, I have been asked (by Shaping Governance Members) to focus on Financial Probity, and how as governors we can get a good understanding of school budgets.