Posted in education, entrepreneurship, opinion, policy, school business management, school governance, training

How does the Enterprise Act 2016 affect schools and academies?

What is the Enterprise Act 2016?

The Enterprise Bill was put before Parliament in September 2015, starting in the House of Lords then passing through the House of Commons, before receiving Royal Assent on 4 May 2016. The main purpose of the Act is to boost British business; Business Secretary Sajid Javid promised that “it is proof that this government is delivering on its commitment to back the business owners who are the real heroes of our economic recovery”. Continue reading “How does the Enterprise Act 2016 affect schools and academies?”

Posted in academy conversion, education, leadership, opinion, policy, Primary, school business management, school governance, school leadership, schools, Secondary, teaching, Uncategorized

Thinking of starting, joining or expanding an MAT?

This week’s blog comes from our expert contributor, Veale Wasbrough Vizards (VWV), on the subject of MAT formation.

vwv_logo

Those readers who have recently seen presentations by the Schools Commissioner Frank Green, will know that the current political focus is firmly placed on school collaboration and the expansion of the multi-academy trust (MAT) model. This follows on from the clear messages contained in the Education and Adoption Bill. Continue reading “Thinking of starting, joining or expanding an MAT?”

Posted in academy conversion, policy, school business management, school governance, Secondary

The All-out Academisation Debate

On 17 March, the DfE’s White Paper set the course for another wave of changes to crash over the education sector. Now, despite the promise of “significant changes to teacher qualifications which will recognise teachers for the experts that they are, and give teaching the same status as doctors and lawyers”, teachers are gearing up to march in protest of arguably the most major pledge in the paper − “a blueprint for a system of full academisation”.[1] Continue reading “The All-out Academisation Debate”

Posted in communication, leadership, parents, Primary, school business management, school governance, school leadership, schools, Secondary, technology, Uncategorized

Why should you consider using technology in the education boardroom?

The use of technology in the boardroom is fairly commonplace in the private sector; however, it is yet to make a significant breakthrough in the education boardroom. A look at the key benefits will get you asking: “why not?”

A hub for all strategic conversations

Typically, board packs are shared by email or post to school directors, leaders and governors. In practice, this means wasted time prior to or, more frustratingly, during meetings to find the right email in order to print off reports, presentations, etc. I’m sure we’ve all asked the question, “Was I sent that?” to be met with the reply, “You were cc’d into the email sent on the 13th, would you like another copy printed now?”

In schools, where personal email addresses are often used for communication with governors and academy directors, this also relies on individuals creating methods to filter out school documents from the latest Tesco delivery email and Netflix offer.

An online board hub makes it easy for everyone to access the same document at the right time in one consistent, secure place.

Last minute amendments, updates or reports can be shared instantly to all attendees, meaning everyone has the latest report for the start of the meeting, and making mid-meeting print-outs a thing of the past.

Fewer interruptions. Less distraction. Better board meetings.   

We’ve all been there, silently flicking through a ream of
paper to find the specific section of a report being referred to, or just the right report amongst the pack, whilst trying to listen and contribute to the conversation taking place.

A board hub that supports electronic documents can be searched, categorised and filtered to make finding the right information quick and easy, allowing you to concentrate on the matters at hand.

Quicker decision making

The ability to access more information in meetings results in decisions being made quicker, rather than extending into the next committee or board meeting.

This is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of introducing technology into the education boardroom, where the ability to have impromptu catch-ups or meetings just isn’t to the same degree as the private sector.

The right board hub will be a point of reference for all school conversations and will be accessible by everyone.

This blog was brought to you by our communication experts:

SchoolCal

“SchoolCal makes it easy for education leaders, directors and governors to concentrate on what’s important.”

Web, mobile and app based: access documents, minutes and agenda’s anywhere, on any device, and at a time to suit everyone. Easily review papers, open links and share with colleagues.

Everything exactly when you need it: quickly search, filter and bookmark content. Easily access past papers, meetings and documents.

For in-between meetings: share news, updates and key information all year round, providing leadership teams with important updates throughout the year − perfect for multi-academy trusts who operate across multiple sites and meet infrequently with directors and governors.

Professional design, simple to use: set up takes seconds.

For organisers to:

  • Share information with specific groups, committees or individuals.
  • Easily plan, schedule and communicate with everyone from a consistent platform.
  • Schedule meetings in advance and edit to add documents, new attendees and location details at any time.
  • Message and send reminders to all or specific delegates.
  • Send unlimited messages, reminders and contacts.
Posted in education, opinion, policy, school governance, school leadership, Secondary

School skirts: to ban or not to ban?

Uniforms are the centre of an age-old debate; are they good or bad? Do they help or inhibit learning? Do they prevent bullying? Are they more practical for families? The questions go on. But now, school skirts are stealing the focus, raising questions like; how short is too short? Who’s to blame for the hitched up hemlines? And what can, and should, be done about inappropriate skirt length?

Some schools have blamed the fashion industry for pupils’ disregard for appropriate dress; however, generations of women (and men) are likely to remember conversations with their own parents about how much skin on show is too much. But now, a new disturbing light is being shed on the debate, as schools are beginning to regard skirt length as a safeguarding issue rather than a disciplinary matter.

Scapegoating safeguarding issues

Currently, around 63 schools across England have completely banned their female pupils from wearing skirts.1 Their reasoning includes guidance on skirt length being repeatedly ignored and time that could be spent on teaching and learning being wasted addressing skirt issues. However, the headteacher of a school recently joining the ranks of school skirt prohibitionists has added another one to the list, saying:

“It’s not pleasant for male members of staff, and students either, if the girls [wearing short skirts] have to walk upstairs and sit down. After a while, it stops being a uniform issue and starts becoming a safeguarding issue.”2

While some arguments for banning school skirts may have an understandable foundation (i.e. addressing skirt issues could eat into lesson time, impacting teaching and learning), it is concerning to hear that not only are a pupil’s bare legs being dubbed a safeguarding issue because they make their male teachers, the people responsible for safeguarding them, uncomfortable, but that the pupils themselves are the ones being apportioned the blame for the arising safeguarding issue.

Another school enforced their ban following an incident where a male member of staff was left feeling uncomfortable after a female pupil met his uniform challenge with the remark “You shouldn’t be looking at my legs”. (Stanford, 2015) The incident suggests that the school skirt debate can be a double-edged sword, if students are found playing on social sensitivities as an excuse for breaking school rules.

However, in each case, surely there is a bigger issue at hand, with a blanket ban on skirts only a superficial and unfair solution to a much more deep-rooted issue, echoing elements of the wider feminist debate over women’s clothing. And surely a school is the best setting to educate pupils on these issues rather than brush them under a rug?

Blanket bans

Schools should be wary of the ‘simple solution’, because it doesn’t always prove to be the best. While this may limit the potential for safeguarding issues within the school’s grounds arising from school skirt length, it’s an unrealistic representation of life beyond school.

It’s an unfortunate truth that female pupils will likely go on to work environments where their dress choices will be heavily scrutinised. Isn’t it preferable to teach female pupils about appropriate dress in business and work situations, rather than force them to wear “business-like trousers” on all occasions for fear of provoking male attention? (Stanford, 2015)

Not only this, but an element of discrimination could be argued if females’ bare legs are being scrutinised when males’ are not, for instance, when on the school sports field. If a school implements a policy disadvantaging females or males this is a case of indirect discrimination. While indirect discrimination can sometimes be legal if a good enough reason for it can be proved in court, schools are still at risk of angering parents and disheartening pupils.3 Some parents have already complained that it’s a “minority ruining it for everyone”.4

Schools also put themselves at risk of backlash over double-standards if their clamp down on school skirts is furious enough to fuel a policy overhaul, but their worries about the height of male pupils’ waistlines barely raises a whisper.

A better way?

It’s easier said than done to say simply set out a strict uniform policy and successfully enforce it throughout your school. Although some schools are steaming ahead with their bans on school skirts, others have made U-turns on the decision to search for a better way to tackle inappropriate dress.

One school is taking a focus-group approach, reaching out to parents, students, staff and governors to try and determine the best way to tackle the sensitive situation. Other schools are allowing pupils only to wear skirts from selected providers at a standard shape and length.

It’s not a quick solution, but isn’t it better to spend the time finding a way to properly enforce a fair uniform policy, than to use the short term solution, and risk discriminating against female pupils, while also failing to address the real issues at hand?

1 School Skirt Ban, ‘Welcome to schoolskirtban.co.uk’ <http://www.schoolskirtban.co.uk/site/> [Accessed: 3 August 2015]

2 Peter Stanford (2015) ‘School skirts – the long and short of it’ <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/11775014/School-skirts-the-long-and-short-of-it.html> [Accessed: 3 August 2015]

Citizens Advice, ‘Indirect discrimination’ <https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/discrimination/what-are-the-different-types-of-discrimination/indirect-discrimination/> [Accessed: 3 August 2015]

4 BBC news (2015) ‘Plymstock School skirt ban over hemline row’ <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-33387144> [Accessed: 3 August 2015]

Posted in education, leadership, school governance, school leadership, schools

The future of leadership and governance in education

TheSchoolBus, HCSS Education and our legal experts, Berg, will be hosting a joint event this February to discuss a solution based approach to improving governance and leadership. In anticipation, this blog piece by Berg explores the future of leadership and governance in schools and academies.

Strong leadership and governance are key factors for schools in helping deliver successful educational outcomes for their students. This can be achieved by increasing autonomy for headteachers and schools while providing them with a strong support structure to assist and encourage accountability. This support structure must include a renewed focus on the central role of governing bodies.

Recent governments have taken steps to increase autonomy for schools and headteachers by the introduction of academies, but these growing freedoms also bring an increased responsibility on the part of government to create safeguards that will maintain and improve standards. As such, more needs to be done to increase the support structures that will help to drive improvements and boost young people’s educational achievements. School leaders need a clear framework within which to act and the best way to achieve this is through greater cooperation between schools, an emphasis on professional development and more effective governing bodies.

Education and Industry Working Together

Schools and governing bodies should also acknowledge the value of school leaders with industry experience and encourage a greater exchange between the education sector and industry. This will ensure that senior management teams in academies have the right mix of skills, knowledge and experience. Greater efforts must be made by the government, business and education sectors to encourage industry leaders to serve as school governors.

Stronger Governing Bodies

While many academies already enjoy the benefits of a strong and decisive governing body, there are also many that don’t and concerted action is needed to raise standards across the country, including continuing training and support for all governors. Governing bodies should be kept at a reasonable size so as not to hinder their decision-making capabilities, and their focus must always be on clear and relevant issues, both in terms of the day-to-day and the wider strategic picture.

Some governing bodies are failing in their duty to deliver consistently high standards due to a shortage of governors with the right skills and knowledge for the job. Governors recruited from the ranks of British industry can provide qualities, such as confidence and assurance, as well as a wide-ranging set of other skills. These leadership qualities are critical in supporting headteachers and staff in delivering significant improvements to their academy’s performance.

Benefits for Business

Drawing school governors from business not only brings wide-ranging benefits to the academies themselves, but it also brings important benefits to the individuals appointed and to the business organisations in which they work. And of course, in supporting the raising of educational standards, British businesses will benefit from a future workforce of highly educated and multi-skilled young people. Schools and businesses can learn from each other in improving their operations, particularly in areas such as accountability, board composition and succession planning.

Raising performance levels in UK schools to match the best in Europe could increase growth by more than 1% each year, boosting UK GDP by £8 trillion over the lifetime of a child born today. As such, it’s clear that raising educational standards should be a defining goal for the present and also for any future government, as well as for industry and the educational sector.

As employers understand only too well, successful educational outcomes are about more than exam results – school leavers need not only the right skills and knowledge, but also the right attitude to succeed. The business sector can play a vital role in improving educational standards for the benefit of everyone. Support and concerted action from government is required both now and in the future, so as to create the conditions for real improvements in our schools.

In February 2015, Berg will team up with Dame Kathy August DBE to host ‘The Future of Leadership and Governance in Education’ event, in association with HCSS Education and TheSchoolBus. This provides a fantastic opportunity for headteachers, governors and business managers working in academies to discuss practical steps in improving leadership and governance with experts in the field.

Click the link below to register your interest in the event, and let’s work together to make the future of leadership and governance in your academy a successful one.

http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-future-of-leadership-and-governance-in-education-tickets-14603107287

(The information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Berg or any of its partners or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.)