Is your governing body effective?

Every board of governors or school governing body is in a state of continual change. The organisational climate changes as members move on and off the board.

A new chairperson or principal/head of school can have a huge impact on the interpersonal ‘vibe’ and professional effectiveness of the board.
Boards have different levels of effectiveness (doing the right things) and efficiency (doing things right). If you serve on a board you might like to ascertain its present level of effectiveness.

Richard Hayward has adapted an evaluation grid from Ram Charan’s book Boards that Deliver that was originally used in the corporate world

Getting to level three—a school governance checklist

The effectiveness levels of school governing bodies or board

Level one: Ceremonial

Group dynamics

  • The chair or principal is all-powerful. Everyone else is passive
  • .
  • There is no meaningful dialogue.

  • The framework is rigid and unbending

  • Leaders is autocratic and authoritarian

Supply of information

  • School leadership tightly controls information flow.

  • Often the right amount of information is not given. It’s either too little or too much.

  • Information is summarised at a complex level and presentations are too long. Confusion can result and members might feel inadequate about not understanding issues.

Focus on substantive issues

  • The focus is on compliance only.

  • Governors usually rubber-stamps the chair or principal’s decisions.

Level two: Liberated

Group dynamics

  • Governors are free to speak up but dialogue is fragmented. There’s a lack of focus.

  • A few governors overstep the boundaries of what should be discussed.

  • The framework is open and at times, a free-for-all.

  • Leadership is free-rein or laissez faire.

  • Members go off at a tangent and waste energy.

  • Most of the time no meaningful decisions are reached.

  • Board pledges to improve effectiveness but does no rigorous self-evaluation.

Supply of Information

  • School leadership willingly makes information available.

  • Leadership is frustrated by ad hoc demands from certain governors for information that often isn’t necessary.

  • Board asks for more information but what it gets is not presented well and doesn’t help them to understand the core issues.

Focus on substantive issues

  • Board wants to make a contribution but is overwhelmed by issues.

  • It becomes driven by compliance and routine issues.

  • Little or no “breakthrough” leadership.

Level three: Progressive

Group dynamics

  • Mutual respect between school leadership and other governors.

  • One or two governors emerge as facilitators to channel lively debates.

  • The framework is semi-rigid.

  • Leadership is democratic, but when necessary it is assertive.

  • True consensus is reached through open, honest and values-driven debates of key issues.

  • Self-evaluation takes place to achieve ongoing improvement.

  • Governors take results seriously and act on them
  • Supply of information

    • Information is digestible, focused, regular and timely.

    • School leadership anticipates the information needed by the board.

    • Governors understand the way the school is run as well as relevant education legislation.

    Focus on substantive issues

    • Board and principal jointly set agendas.

    • Regular meetings are held (more than prescribed minimum, if needed).

    • Board focuses on issues that are: Value-added,
      Able to achieve long-term, sustainable success and Compliance-related

    Source: Quality Education News: Issue 17

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