‘Amateurish’ governing bodies will no longer do, says Wilshaw

“Amateurish” governing bodies must be improved if there is to be a significant advancement in the quality of the country’s schools, the head of Ofsted has said.

Writing in a blog on the watchdog’s website, Sir Michael Wilshaw states that “good will and good intentions” have only a limited impact on schools, and that more needs to be done to boost the quality of school governance.

The rapid increase in the number of academies and free schools has meant governing bodies have a greater responsibility than ever before, Sir Michael says.

“In short, the role is so important that amateurish governance will no longer do,” he writes. “Good will and good intentions will only go so far. Governing boards made up of people who are not properly trained and who do not understand the importance of their role are not fit for purpose in the modern and complex educational landscape.”

Such are his concerns that he has called on the government to make training mandatory for all governors and trustees.

“I am disappointed that there has been such little progress on this recommendation,” he adds.

The chief inspector highlighted the Trojan Horse scandal that engulfed several schools in Birmingham as an example of what can take place through bad governance.

According to Sir Michael, Ofsted inspectors were forced to draft in external experts to carry out urgent reviews of the performance of governing boards in 500 schools in the last academic year.

The inspectorate has now instigated an “in-depth and far-reaching survey” into the effectiveness of governance in schools, and Sir Michael has issued a call for evidence to inform the review.

The exercise will examine the feasibility of paying governors to carry out their duties, as well as whether local authorities and regional school commissioners intervene early enough when problems in governance arise.

The move follows recommendations from the chair of the Commons Education Select Committee, Neil Carmichael, who called for key members of governing boards to receive some remuneration for their duties.

“The issue of governance is fundamental to the success of our education system in England and to whether we can sustain and build on the improvements in school standards of recent years,” Sir Michael adds.

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