1 March 2001
Westminster Diocese response to DfEE Consultation on School Governing Bodies, following the numbering given in the Consultation Document.
1. We do not object to the proposal to give governing bodies more flexibility in deciding what functions to delegate to the head teacher in respect of staffing. However the governing body in voluntary aided schools remains the employer and must remain responsible for determining what functions, if any, are delegated and what it retains itself. In a Catholic school the recruitment of staff is of the utmost importance and it must be open to the governing body to be involved in the recruitment of all staff if they wish do so.
2. Once again the possibility of giving governing bodies greater flexibility and more power to delegate to the head teacher in these matters may well be welcomed by some schools. However, the governing bodies must retain the right whether to use those increased powers of delegation.
3. We agree broadly with the strategic role suggested for governing bodies in the matter of school budgets and financial management.
4. We welcome any area where it is possible to reduce the burdens on our governing bodies.
5. We broadly welcome this proposal. We wonder whether a better solution might be to remove the requirement to circulate proposed admissions arrangements unless there is any change, but to allow other admissions authorities to request a copy of the proposed arrangements and to make representations (and, ultimately, to refer an objection to the adjudicator) each year. (Such a change might be possible without primary legislation.)
6. None at this time.
7. We do not see any major problems with these additional duties.
8. We agree in principle that there should be some form of “gate-keeping” to prevent new responsibilities being given to governors without consideration of the total load. This function should be coupled with effective consultation on these responsibilities. On the matter of governing body powers mentioned in paragraph 16, it is in fact the case that voluntary schools already have the power to do this as one of their voluntary functions. However, we agree that it seems sensible for other schools to be able to exercise such a power as well.
9. There has been no suggestion from our schools that they would welcome a reduction in size of governing bodies. On the contrary, a number of our schools have intimated that a smaller governing body would not provide sufficient governors to undertake the tasks that are being currently required of them. In addition, the proposals for voluntary aided secondary schools set out in Annex B are unacceptable as they couple an increase with the requirement for parent foundation governors with a decrease in the majority of foundation governors. In the present legislation these two factors are linked and to remove that linkage would considerably weaken the legal underpinning of the school’s character. We would vigorously contest such an attack.
10. We agree that, in certain circumstances, the possibility of a grouped governing body is a useful one, therefore we welcome the re-introduction of this possibility. Although by and large there is no need for group governing bodies, in certain limited circumstances such an arrangement could be necessary to allow the effective collaboration between two separate schools. We would be very happy for the concept of group governing bodies to be surrounded with some form of restriction so that they could only operate in certain circumstances, if that were thought necessary.
11. We are very alarmed about the proposals made in paragraphs 26-29. Catholic schools are those where the diocese or a religious order appoints the majority of the foundation governors. Removal of the whole governing body by the Secretary of State would cause such a school to cease to be a Catholic school. This in itself would put the existence of the school in jeopardy, the opposite of what appears to be intended. The proposal is unacceptable and, in our view unnecessary. The existing powers of the Local Education Authority and the Secretary of State to appoint additional governors, the Bishop to appoint additional foundation governors and the bishop or religious order to remove existing foundation governors are, in our experience, quite adequate.
12. As stated above we consider that the powers contained in the current legislation are adequate.
13. Once again we are not convinced that these proposals are necessary.
14. We agree that the training of governors is an important priority and welcome increased support for this. It is essential that training provided for governors of Catholic schools is distinctive in its character.
15. We strongly agree with the importance of good clerking for governing bodies. We are very content with the quality of clerking services either provided by independent consultants or LEAs. What we would wish to see restricted or in fact prohibited is the use of poorly trained employees of the governing body, particularly school secretaries and administrative assistants, who find themselves very much in awe of the head teacher and / or chairman of governors. No end of problems arise from incompetent clerks from this type of stable failing to give appropriate procedural advice at the appropriate time to a governing body. If the clerk to the governing body is expected to be both a competent independent adviser, and able to relieve governors of administrative tasks, then adequate funding must be available to pay for these services. We would therefore welcome additional funding to enable governing bodies to employ a competent clerk.
16. 1 Additional clerking and administrative support.
2 ICT support for chairs and governors.
3 Governor expenses from outside the school budget.
4 An honorarium for Chairmen of Governing Bodies.
17. It is important that head teachers, as the lead professionals in the school, are able to advise governing bodies on monitoring performance and standards, but it is not adequate to expect head teachers to be responsible for the training and support of governing bodies.
18 & 19 Those LEAs which allows schools to run with LEA governor vacancies for long periods of time should be required to ensure that those appointments are filled within a reasonable period of time. In terms of other categories of governor within voluntary aided schools¸ these are not the responsibility of the LEA. Foundation Governors are appointed by the bishop or by the relevant religious superior depending on who provides the school. Other vacancies, such as the elected governors, are the responsibility of the governing body itself, and additional co-opted governors are nominated by bodies other than the LEA.
20. A national register of prospective school governors is acceptable provided that diocesan authorities are closely involved so that potential foundation governors can be identified from within the same system. The setting up of any such system would require very close consultation with the CES and dioceses from the very beginning.