This is not what I intended to write.
At the start of this week everything was bumbling along. Why then by the end of the week do I feel like I’ve run a marathon carrying an elephant?
The reason we volunteer is because we care about the quality of education our children receive. Many of us start as parent governors, nosy about what’s going on with our children. Most of us stay to try and make a difference.
I’m so long in the tooth I even remember life before Ofsted, then the cupboard rummagers, the lesson scrutinisers and what we have now.
I firmly believe schools and governing bodies should be accountable; accountable to children, parents and Ofsted among others. I know that’s controversial but I’ve seen too many schools with a sleeping governing body where the world turns and they don’t notice.
I have a chat with the head where I’m Chair every couple of days and exchange emails a couple of times a week. We meet every couple of weeks and occasionally I pop into school on the way past and have a chat with staff, say hello and drop off some biscuits or cake.
This week I was bimbling past when I decided to drop in. I signed in, had a chat with the support staff and sat down in the staffroom. After about five minutes the deputy head stopped as she passed me for the third time and said “by you were quick who phoned you?” At that point my week changed.
About ten minutes before they had the call.
Sometimes being a Chair of governors is more about perception than action. Fighting the temptation to throw my hands in the air and run screaming from the building I adopted a “Steady the Buffs” attitude of cheerful stoic optimism in the face of the oncoming storm. Once I knew there was nothing the senior leaders felt we as Govs could do I left them to it, went home and emailed the team.
Our governing body are a team. We don’t have data storm troopers, we don’t drill everyone to the grade six governance. I know my fellow govs and I know what they bring. It was getting Ofsted to see that which occupied the next two days.
By half time on day one the head was quiet, not like them at all. The deputy who is a caring and dedicated professional was similarly tacit. I started to worry.
I emailed the Govs at lunchtime and at the end of the day, asking specific people to be sure they knew their areas of responsibility. Our finance guru was working 200 miles away and other govs couldn’t get the time off at short notice. We had our final Eight.
The day dawned and by dawned I mean we had our meeting with the lead inspector at 08.30. One Gov assumed this was such an unreasonable hour it must mean 20.30 and was typo (seven left).
By ten the lead inspector had written many many pages and was starting to get the air of desperation that they wanted to get away. I could not have asked for more from our team. The parents were clear, eloquent and passionate about their children and the work they saw in governance in their children’s lives. The staff were clear about their dual role, what they saw, the openness of the governing body and how we all worked together as a team. I felt deflated worried there was so much more we could have said and evidenced. I did not want to let our children down.
The conversation ranged over the single central register (checked two days before by me), attainment, CVA, achievement, progress, disadvantaged groups, high achievers, data, safeguarding, pupil premium, sports premium, how the governing body interacted with the stakeholders, challenge, VFM, teacher appraisal linked to reward; but above all children. Each aspect linked directly back to children.
To say the process was thorough was an understatement.
I went home.
Then I started to worry.
My hand hovered over the telephone.
Should I ring and say we forgot to mention?
Did we miss a curve ball??
did you realise we do…???
I thought better of it and had a cup of tea.
As I sat there feeling thankful my boss had given me the time and space to be so involved with our school, playing the various options in my mind I realised I knew what grade our school was but did Ofsted? What could happen next? How would we react?
The debrief was at 3.30.
I can’t finish this story, yet.
We had the meeting yesterday.
I can’t tell you what was said, why or what it means to our school’s future.
What I can say is I know why I’m a governor. I care about the children. I care about their life chances and their life after they leave us as well as what happens in our school. They get one chance and we can’t squander that. No matter what is thrown at us we’ll do what we can because they can’t, they are children.
Every governor in every school feels the same: we care.