National Governance Association News 2021


National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 12/02/2021

SEND Advisory Group Meeting

We are pleased to announce that the next NGA SEND advisory group meeting is taking place on Tuesday 9 March 2021 at 4.30pm to 6.30pm over Zoom.

The SEND Advisory Group is one of our most important networks and we value the insight the group provides into the governance of schools supporting pupils with special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND). As an interactive forum, the group provides those interested in SEND governance with an opportunity to inform NGA policy work and relevant consultations. As well as share good practice, the group aims to  supports governing boards in ensuring that pupils with SEND get the support they need.

To register, please visit our events page and please send any questions or comments to adelaide.chitanda@nga.org.uk.


National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 05/02/2021

COVID-19 Updated DfE guidance

The Department for Education (DfE) has updated its guidance for schools (which does not include maintained nursery schools or pre-reception classes) during the national lockdown period.

The guidance refers to the system of controls, which schools have been implementing since the start of the autumn term, and has been updated where necessary to reflect the change to only some pupils attending onsite.

The principal changes made to the guidance cover:

  • the need to ventilate occupied spaces;
  • the need for pupils, staff and other adults who live with someone with COVID-19 symptoms to stay away from school;
  • the point at which household isolation should start from when COVID-19 symptoms show;
  • what qualifies as a “close contact”;
  • decisions taken by education providers or local authorities to class a child as “vulnerable” when they are struggling to engage with remote education;
  • offering a “flexible approach” to new staff interviews

Governing boards should continue to have oversight of ongoing risk assessments. Implementing operational plans is the responsibility of school leaders, however, governing boards should seek assurance that the measures in place are working effectively in the current circumstances and that safeguarding remains the highest priority. 

You can read more about this on the COVID-19 resource page of our Knowledge Centre.

National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 29/01/2021

Co-chairing: Share your experience

As explained in our co-chairing guidance, co-chairing is possible in both maintained schools and academy trusts. We have been contacted by a school who are in the process of succession planning, and considering a co-chair arrangement for their board. If you have experience of implementing co-chairing in practice, and would be willing to be put in contact with this school, please email michael.barton@nga.org.uk.




National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 22/01/2021

Final Call: Secure your place at NGA's webinar on Good Governance

Places are filling up fast for NGA’s first webinar of 2021. Book your place now to join Emma Knights (NGA’s Chief Executive) next Thursday, 28 January at 4.30-5pm for an introduction to what constitutes good governance.
 
The webinar will explore the three pillars of good governance
• Ethical governance
• Effective governance
• Accountable governance

And how they need to be built on agreed values and a healthy culture.
To book a free place: see https://www.nga.org.uk/News/Webinars.aspx


National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 15/01/2021

Leading Governance: Development for chairs, clerks and boards

Last chance to register your interest on our waiting list, or to apply for a self-funded development place!

While the DfE has paused funding for all its governance development programmes due to higher than expected demand, we are still accepting applications for our Leading Governance programmes for boards, chairs and clerks from those who wish to self-fund, or those who want to join our waiting list for the final March 2021 cohorts, should the DfE release further funding. Our contract comes to an end this March so, if two people from your board haven’t already taken up this valuable development opportunity, please don’t miss out.

To apply, please visit the Leading Governance web page.


National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 08/01/2021

'Influencing and persuading for governors' - last call for Young Governors' Network bookings

‘Influencing and persuading for governors and trustees’ is the focus of the Young Governors’ Network’s next virtual meeting which takes places on Thursday 14 January from 4.30pm to 5.30pm. We’ll be discussing the importance of being able to influence as part of a governance role coupled with how to develop the vital skills required for effective persuading, challenging and influencing.

If you are a governor or trustee aged under 40, you can sign up for a free place – this is a great opportunity to share experiences and build connections with peers. Please do encourage other young governors on your board and in your networks to come along too.

You can find out more about the session and book online on our Eventbrite page


National Governance Association Weekly Newsletter 04/01/2021


Update on 4 January 2020 from NGA to governing boards:

We thought it important to update and advise you on the challenging and complex issues relating to the return of pupils to schools in January. The Prime Minister is making a televised announcement at 8pm this evening (4 January), and if you have questions arising, please contact us on covidfeedback@nga.org.uk.

Governing boards up and down the country are working with their school leaders and are acting as a vital sounding board when deciding what is safe for their pupils and staff in the light of guidance and local public health advice. You are likely to have begun those discussions over the school holidays, but as the circumstances are changing daily – and sometimes hourly – you and your leaders will be reassessing.

The current national plan for school opening in January 
The current plan for school opening at the time of writing was announced by the Secretary of State on 30 December  alongside an updated contingency framework implementation guidance and further DfE media blog and Q&A


Health and safety concerns arising from the current plan for school opening in January 
The health and safety concerns arising from the current plan for school opening in January has led to some unions advising their members of their individual right to refuse to return to the workplace. We anticipate that school leaders will be working closely with employees and unions who have expressed concerns about the safety of the working environment and attempt to address them in their risk assessments. However, it would not be wise for schools/trusts to take immediate action against members of staff for not attending the school site on this basis.

Some local authorities have advised their primary schools to switch to remote learning from the start of term and prioritise opening for vulnerable and key worker children, while others have informed their school leaders that they would support a decision to not reopen fully from the start of term.
 
In view of this, many school leaders will have concerns about having sufficient staff attending to ensure the health and safety of all pupils and staff. School leaders will be in the best position, knowing their staff and school circumstances, to decide how to proceed in individual cases and, having carried out a risk assessment, make appropriate decisions as to whether they are to open safely.

Decisions about whether to open or close schools - the role of governing boards
Currently a decision to open or close the school resides with the executive leader and is taken in consultation with their governing board. The key messages here are: 

  • The executive leader knows the unique circumstances of their schools best and therefore are best placed to make the detailed decisions required when it comes to safety.
  • It is recommended that legal advice (eg through the local authority or trust) is sought before taking a decision not to follow the government’s proposals for bringing back pupils at the start of term.
  • School leaders should also seek the advice of their governing board. As circumstances permit this could be through the chair, vice-chair or an emergency meeting of the governing board held remotely.
  • The governing board as a corporate entity remains accountable and responsible for the decision. Therefore, the board should be prepared to test the robustness of the school leader’s risk assessment and whether, based on the evidence, the school(s) should open for all pupils or close for pupils except for vulnerable children and the children of key workers and remotely educate other pupils. The governing board should also be prepared to ratify the decision and support the communication of it to stakeholders.
  • The governing board has collective responsibility for health and safety, rather than individual responsibility. It would be very rare for individual governors and trustees to be personally liable for health and safety issues.

Remote education - expectations, support and monitoring
In light of the developing situation with the new COVID variant and the likelihood of more schools having to close to most pupils, it becomes even more important that governing boards scrutinise their school’s strategy and plans for delivering remote education to pupils at home. In particular, the ability of the school or trust to switch quickly and efficiently to online (blended) learning should circumstances require.

The DfE’s guidance on remote education good practice details some of the characteristics of effective remote learning. NGA's COVID-19 resource centre also includes information on remote education.

Asymptomatic COVID-19 testing for all pupils and staff from 4 January 2021
DfE guidance updated on 30 December states that all schools with secondary-age pupils (including special schools and alternative provision) should offer tests for their pupils, with time to prepare from week commencing 4 January and reaching as many pupils as possible from the week of the 11 January. Testing for primary staff under the weekly and daily testing programmes will begin in the second half of January. A £78 million support fund will be shared by schools and colleges to help with mass testing costs.

Large scale testing is an important priority, and a valuable resource in helping to ensure a continuity of education for as many pupils as possible. In our statement released on Friday 18 December, we emphasised concern for the wellbeing and welfare of school leaders as a result of the timing of this announcement and the perceived expectation it places on schools.

The wellbeing of staff, especially school leaders 
While it is our role as governors and trustees to support and challenge our school leaders and their staff to do the right thing, we should never underestimate the huge amount of work they do on behalf of others and also the importance of considering their health and wellbeing. Getting the support right for others is not easy and the encouragement that school leaders receive from their governing boards goes a long way.
 
NGA representing your views
NGA continues to represent the views and interests of our members in conversations with other education organisations and with ministers and civil servants. For example, about the need for school staff to be on the vaccination priority list. Thanks to those of you who have taken the time to contact us. Please email covidfeedback@nga.org.uk if you would like to share any comments.

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