Governance on the line: Effective governance in the midst of a changing educational landscape

Year: 2012

Author: Allen, Tracey

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The UK educational context is currently undergoing key changes in terms of the educational landscape.  Policy changes encouraging an autonomous public schooling system have numerous implications for the educational offer, systemic structure and school leadership.  Within this landscape, the particular role of governance is becoming increasingly high stakes, with a responsibility of school governors to steward leadership for improving educational outcomes for children and young people.  The role of the leading governor for example, is to challenge the head teacher and in effect encourage and steer the leadership team on an a sustained improvement trajectory, informed by effective use of data and understanding of both human and capital resource at the school's disposal.  The governing body can be held to account and in extreme cases of school failure, the governing body can be removed.  In 2011/12, this form of high stakes accountability came to bear and resulted in the removal of the governing body in some schools experiencing high levels of failure in both England and Wales.  However, the governor role is a voluntary position, the chair of governors is characteristically already employed in a professional role elsewhere; there is evidence of an overall lack of confidence to challenge the head teacher, emergent evidence of a lack of capacity to support the transitions involved in the current reform agenda and differential levels of effectiveness across governing bodies.  Despite such challenges, the governance dimension offers potential to gain an external and impartial insight, has an important bridging function through inclusion of community and parent representation and potentially provides a diverse skills set that goes beyond the usual cache of educational expertise.

This paper investigates governance in public schools and emergent autonomous and quasi- market contexts.  Governance in the independent sector is also explored given that marketisation and autonomous organisation are longstanding characteristics within this sector.  International studies are also explored to help to distil the key ingredients of effective governance and identify where this brings an important premium to school leadership.

This paper is based on a current research study and review of literature exploring key governance issues and the central issue of how governance can bear the responsibility of school leadership and transformation. The study explores contrasting experiences, challenges, and potential for developing highly effective governance in increasingly pressurised and complex educational landscapes.