Transparency in Governance - Buzzword or Byword?

T is for Transparency - how transparent is your governance?

Transparency, in a governance context, means honesty and openness, with transparency and accountability generally considered as the two main pillars of good governance.

This month, I’ll be focusing on the T from our Shaping S.T.R.A.T.E.G.I.C Governance ‘think-list’. The ‘think-list’ was created to help school Governors and Headteachers to get the best out of their governing relationship; helping them to ‘unblur’ the lines between strategic governance and operational management. The ‘Think-list’ was really popular at a recent NAHT Cheshire event that I facilitated.

There has been much in the media in 2018 regarding transparency or a lack thereof, particularly of Multi Academy Trusts; with inflated salaries for CEOs and a lack of clarity or confusion for parents over who is running the school that their children attend.

However transparency is a principle that should be embedded in all levels of governance, in all forms and phases of schools and colleges. Improving transparency can improve the effectiveness of their governance. Transparency in school governance means that all actions should be clear enough to bear public scrutiny; and this month, across two blogs, we will explore how to be more transparent by improving clarity on roles and responsibilities, delegation and the benefit of clear planning.

Working with many schools allows me to see some great ways of working; however it also lets me see some failings. One of the biggest pitfalls I see is a lack of understanding about roles and responsibilities [within the board]. Creating effective boards is not rocket science, you need to start with the foundations, and build from there.

So #Tip1 - every year, sit down and ensure that you have the basics right for the year ahead. Who is doing what, is a fundamental element of good governance; and ensuring this is communicated across the full governing board. Try creating terms of reference for different parts of the board, its committees and for link roles too. Already have TOR? Then review them annually and systematically.

A Scheme of Delegation is a very useful transparency tool. It sets out who will take decisions and carry out certain functions on a governing board. However, there are some functions that cannot be delegated and it is important to check you have this right.

Things get a little trickier in Multi-Academy Trusts; when clarity is needed about which level of the trust does what. Here a scheme of delegation will be produced setting out roles and decisions for each layer of the trust. It should also include how the layers communicate and work together.

So #Tip2 - ensure that your Scheme of Delegation is clear, legal and workable. There are plenty of guides on the internet for helping you to do this - don't reinvent the wheel.

That’s it for this issue, later this month we'll close the year by exploring T for Transparency further, and we will suggest some New Year’s Resolutions to really improve your governance.

In the meantime, may I take this opportunity to wish you all the best for the festive season, and hope that 2019 brings health, happiness and better governance.

Transparency - Buzzword or Byword?