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School Governors

Volume 584: debated on Monday 21 July 2014

We recognise the vital role that governors play in our schools. We have increased funding to the National College for Teaching and Leadership to expand and develop training programmes for chairs, governors and clerks and to increase the numbers of national leaders of governance.

In Birmingham, Ofsted found that governors “asserted inappropriate influence” to

“alter the character and ethos of schools”.

Sir Michael Wilshaw also found that local government structures and accountability are too weak and need to be strengthened. How does the Minister suggest that an authority such as Birmingham should respond to the need to have a coherent approach to its governors when it faces a totally fragmented structure?

We certainly need to learn the lessons not just for Birmingham but for the wider school system of the events that have been reported on over the past few weeks. I should say to the hon. Lady that the Department expects to publish Peter Clarke’s report tomorrow and, with your permission, Mr Speaker, the Secretary of State intends to make a statement to the House on how we intend to respond both to the Clarke report and to Ian Kershaw’s report.

A school funding revolution is taking place in Northumberland as the fairer funding consultation will lead to an increase in April 2015 of up to 7.2%. That is also a revolution for our governors, who, under the previous Government, were often consulted but always ignored. Will the Minister take this forward and ensure that we have fairer funding for all?

As my hon. Friend ingeniously points out, the funding reforms we are making will certainly help governors and teachers in schools. As a result of his campaigning and that of many other hon. Members we are introducing the fairer funding system next year. When we consulted on this, Northumberland was initially going to benefit to the tune of £10.6 million. I can say that the final settlement is that Northumberland will receive £12 million more to ensure that it is funded fairly in the future.

23. The Minister said that he felt we should learn the wider lessons of the Birmingham inquiry, not just those about Birmingham schools. Peter Clarke is reported to have described a system of “benign neglect” in the Department for Education. Does the Minister agree that the way to deal with that benign neglect is to introduce a proper system of local oversight?


As the hon. Gentleman will understand, we are not going to comment today on leaked reports. Tomorrow the Secretary of State will be in a position to set out very clearly the way in which we intend to respond to both reports, but I would say to the hon. Gentleman gently that all those engaged in the education debate have something to learn from this. Birmingham local authority did not cover itself in glory in all aspects of these issues either.

Governors across North Wiltshire who run some of the best schools in the land do an outstandingly good job, but many of them tell me that they are overburdened by rules, regulations, bureaucracy and the forms they have to fill out for central Government. Is there a way that they could be freed from some of these responsibilities so that they can take a much more strategic overview of the direction of the school and spend less time bogged down in bureaucracy?

My hon. Friend is exactly right that the Government want to reduce all aspects of bureaucracy in the school system. We want to make sure that governors are not overburdened with bureaucracy but are armed with the vital information that will allow them to do their job properly and to have more effective governing bodies, which can play a vital role in school improvement.

Does the Minister agree that schools such as Priory Lane primary in my constituency, where the governing body wants to take the school forward by academising, should be given a choice of at least two academy sponsors to find the appropriate fit to take the school community forward?

We always pay due regard to the views of individual schools and governing bodies, but it is vital that when we academise schools that have been failing in the past, the Department discharges its responsibility to select the sponsor which we believe will be most effective.