Kirsty Williams AM, Minister for Education
Delivering an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence is a key part of Our National Mission. To achieve this, governing bodies play a fundamental role as the first line of the accountability for their schools and communities providing the necessary challenge and support for headteachers to lead their schools effectively.
In November 2016, a consultation on proposals intended to revise and simplify the school governance and staffing regulatory framework was launched. The consultation proposed appointing governors according to their skills, giving governing bodies the flexibility to make their own decisions about their constitution and the membership to meet the particular needs of their school. There was a very high response rate to the consultation, with over 400 replies to a complex document, which asked more than 80 questions. The analysis of the consultation replies has confirmed a high degree of support for some of the key proposals. For instance, there was a strong consensus for skills-based governing bodies, although there were concerns that this was not adequately defined.
There was support to change regulations around the composition of governing bodies, but there no clear consensus on what this might be. I asked officials to test these findings with stakeholders and to resolve them, but it is clear that there is little agreement for a way forward. Given the constraints already upon the legislative programme, and the time such a process can take, I am unconvinced that further legislation is the answer. Instead, I want to use Government time and resources to take immediate action.
Firstly, I have asked my officials to support local authorities in conjunction with their regional consortia to ensure all governing bodies are fully up-to-date on curriculum reform. We will complement the local authorities’ own statutory requirements to support governors to carry out their roles by providing information on the coming changes. I have also asked my officials to produce a termly bulletin for governing bodies on the latest progress in delivering Our National Mission.
Secondly, I have asked my officials to ensure that the National Approach to Professional Learning includes resources aimed at school governors. We will be producing digital resources later this year for that very purpose and I will be making a further announcement on those resources in due course.
Thirdly, I am pleased to draw attention to the work that the Welsh Higher Education sector are doing to support school governance. The Higher Education Funding Council Wales (HEFCW) are funding the Open University (OU) in Wales, Cardiff University and Wrexham Glyndŵr University are working collaboratively to support governors through sharing ideas, best practice and opportunities for collaboration. This is, in part, a response to my challenge to the HE sector on civic engagement and to work more closely with schools. They are keen to work with the Education Consortia, Association of Directors of Education in Wales (ADEW) and relevant Regional Skills and Reaching Wider Partnerships.
The OU in Wales will work with partners, including local authorities, to create a programme of learning relevant to the needs of school governors in Wales. This will be available online on OpenLearn and the bilingual OpenLearn Cymru platforms. School governors will be able to access this programme at any time or place, adding a flexible resource to existing mandatory training support offered by local authorities.
Cardiff University will also be developing a school governors’ recruitment scheme which aims to increase the number of university staff volunteering to serve as school governors.
Meanwhile, Wrexham Glyndwr University is to pilot a short course, ‘Introduction to Systems Leadership’ module, with a number of Governors and key school leaders across North Wales by Summer 2019. The programme is unique in its design – it has been co-created by organisations from across the public, private and third sectors to ensure that it addresses the opportunities and challenges that a whole-system approach can bring to tackling complex issues.
Finally, I believe that there is a wealth of talent in Wales that would be willing to give their time and support in governing bodies. Organisations such as CBI, HEIs and Parentkind have offered their help to attract such talent. I have asked officials to work with these organisations to support local and regional governor recruitment campaigns.
A copy of the consultation summary document is available on the Welsh Government’s website: