Working with our Academies

How our governors work with our academies

Sarah Clarke, our Academy Trust School Improvement Lead is responsible for supporting the Local Board Hubs to have the greatest impact they can on improving the quality of Teaching and Learning the pupils in the Trust receive. Our watch words are:

Learn, Support and Challenge

Governors are the ‘eyes and ears’ of the Trustees in the academies. They are of the highest importance in our Trust where every child matters, so we invest in them and they are passionate about our school successes.

We structure the governor support to give maximum impact and in order for all our Local Board Hubs to be ‘in tune’ with each other we set out our Annual Focussed Visits programme. Using this model all Hubs are concentrating their interactions with the academies on the half term focus and this then comes together to give the Trust picture. Great practice is shared and solutions to any short falls are found.

Every half term a representative from each of the Local Board Hubs meet to discuss what they discovered in the previous connections with the academies and what actions should come out of their understanding. Sarah leads the discussions and agreement on how things should move forward is achieved, this forms the summary taken to the S&CC. At the same meeting the group prepare for the upcoming visits to the academies by discussing the focus and setting challenging questions to ask.

Supported in this way governors feel very confident to Learn, Support and Challenge what is happening within schools and report this to Trustees. Training for our governors is therefore ‘live’, pertinent, and specific to every half term focus so highly successful.

Examples of Learn, Support and Challenge in the Trust include:

Learn:

  • Governors are invited to attend the termly Learning Walk, which enables them to hear the expectations of the Academy Head. They can observe lessons, be part of book looks, scrutinise planning and contribute to pupil progress discussions. Our governors are constantly being upskilled and develop a confidence in being able to ask important questions. They understand they have an important role and significant impact.
  • Monthly Safeguarding Information packs on a specific topic are not only sent to academies to update staff they are also sent to governors- this ensures each governor has access to ongoing safeguarding training. Governors can join staff INSETS at any time and frequently do.
  • ATSIP half termly working party discussions support governor training
  • Attendance of external training courses and opportunities are encouraged

Support:

  • We support our governors, as above, to perform to the best of their ability
  • Our governors support our schools with their knowledge, expertise and time. We are very lucky that we have some very dedicated and knowledgeable governors
  • Governors support Academy activities and in that way develop a very close relationship with parents and are able to maintain a very strong communication channel to support the Academy Head.
  • Our governors will support as responsible adults on visits and often as part of our Forest School work- they develop relationships with the children too.

Challenge:

  • Our governors are well prepared to challenge Academy Heads through the working party training delivered by Sarah Clarke every half term- as part of the session she will always deliver training to support the focus and challenging questions are generated and subsequently discussed.
  • Our governors challenge the S&CC to support improvement in schools and question actions of the Trust.

These are just some examples of the plethora of actions our Local Board Hubs undertake.

Local Board Development Group meeting

This meeting run by the Academy Trust Improvement Lead and is designed to discuss current issues in education facing our Trust - it is a forum for debate and clarification to ensure Governors are confident when going into schools and are focused on achieving the required scrutiny and evidence gathering linked with the Annual Focused Visit Programme.  The Chair would usually attend this group, but this can be passed to another member of the Local Board if appropriate.  Other members can attend if they find it useful.  Feedback at the Local Board Meeting is a standard agenda item, these then must be posted on the Academy Website and kept fully updated.   

Local Board Academy Visits

Local Board Governors are expected to visit individual Academies to support and consider the development of Teaching and Learning that takes place within them.  These visits involve Governors going into Academies and reflecting, alongside the Academy Head, on structures, processes, and systems linked to the Curriculum that support day to day running and development.  The Learn, Support and Challenge system enables Governors to learn about an area of practice in detail, then support and challenge an Academy Head in order to ensure the best possible practice is followed and developed.  The termly focused visit detailed on the ‘Local Board Focussed Visit Calendar’ must be completed and reported to the Standards and Curriculum committee, but other visits may also take place in consultation with the ATSIP or AH to support Academy development.  Visit notes are used as a record of ‘learn, support and challenge’ and these are reported at the Local Board Meetings, as well as being used in support of the report to the Standards and Curriculum committee if required.

Local Board Meeting

These take place half termly and are organised by the Chair, following a standard agenda available from The Clerk to the Trust.  It is an opportunity for visit notes to be collated and shared.  A maximum of two AH’s from the Hub will attend on a rolling programme basis in order to clarify any upcoming queries and support the Trust picture.  Any further queries can be fed back to the ATIL who will manage and resolve these.  The Clerk sets the agenda with the Chair, records the minutes and uploads them once agreed as a true record.

Summary Report to Standards and Curriculum Committee

This report will be requested by The Clerk to the Trust two weeks before the date of the meeting.  It is a summary report compiled from the focussed visit and other visit notes from all Local Board Governors.  The Summary report should follow a standard reporting procedure including main findings, outcomes and actions.  The members of the S&C committee will read these reports and consider queries, patterns and possible areas of action individually or across The Trust.  The S&C committee also have access to the minutes from the previous Local Board meeting.

Attendance at Standards and Curriculum Committee

A representative from each Local Board is expected to attend The Standards and Curriculum Meeting.  This meeting gives a platform for Trustees to learn, support and challenge Local Board members in their work, seek further clarification and request further action if necessary.  The minutes from The Standards and Curriculum meeting will go to the Full Board meeting where they will be further scrutinised, and possible future action will be requested through the S&C committee.