With the recent speech to the National Governors’ Association conference in Manchester Nicky Morgan made clear the preferred model of governance is moving away from stakeholder representation.
Does this matter?
At the moment the vibe coming from the Dfe is towards medium sized multi academy trusts of 8-10 schools.
In itself this is not an issue but this will reduce the number of governors nationally to a frightening small number.
To be clear local governing bodies are not governance they are accountable committees solely at the mercy of the patronage of the MAT board. The presence of individuals on the LGB “board” is at the behest of the board and can be removed at any time. What the LGB is given to do is at the whim of the board and can be changed at any time.
The only governors remaining will be MAT board members.
The numbers (please bear with me these are approximates)
There are circa 22,000 schools in England
The ideal MAT size is 8 -10 (DfE)
The average MAT board is approx. 10 people
That roughly equates to 22,000 governors nationally – down from over 300,000 today.
Even if my figures are off by 100% the drop by over 250,000 is potentially the single biggest dismantling and disenfranchisement of a volunteer group in our history.
Again – does this matter?
I have spoken to a number of MAT boards and several have no governance expertise at all. Skills such as legal, HR, and finance are valued but the mechanics and understanding of governance are not valued.
This does matter.
Governance has the Nolan principles running through it, is rooted in the local and accountable and is connected to the students and families it serves.
This will be lost.
Education will move to a service delivered to a community not reflecting the context it serves.
When parents find that a board remote from them their school and their child is the final arbiter of any disagreement with the head teacher. That if you have a SEND child the head teacher has no accountability locally. That if the board makes a decision which is disagreed with locally there is no formal method of arbitration people may start to take notice. By then it will be too late.
The balance of local accountability by head teachers does matter. Some head teachers are not outstanding and the freedoms in this model allow a poor head teacher to have a disproportionate local effect.
Is it worth the risk?
The concentration of the education of our children in the hands of a small number of people matters. Remember MAT board members are chosen by existing MAT board members. They are immune from the public appointments process despite running multi million taxpayer pound budgets.
Perhaps a MAT above £10M should be brought within the public appointment process?
The possibility of failure by a MAT board will have a disproportionate affect on the children within the MAT; way beyond the reach of a poorly performing governing body. Remember the phrase “to big to fail” and reflect on how that ended.
The flip of a coin to fly high or plumb the depths is not a chance I would relish with my own child’s education or any child for that matter.
The golden future of academisation will have to be very closely monitored but by whom?
There is neither the desire nor the capacity centrally or regionally. Local Authorities and regional schools commissioners and the DFE do not have the capacity. The local community may see what is happening but have little impact on preventing failure.
Too many known unknowns to paraphrase the metaphysical Dick Cheyney.
Worth the risk?