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Hay gets power to sack school governors in Trojan Horse crackdown

Hay gets power to sack school governors in Trojan Horse crackdown

🕔16.Jun 2015

A senior Birmingham city council official will be able to sack individuals from school governing bodies without giving any reasons why as part of a clamp-down on misbehaviour following the Trojan Horse scandal, reports Paul Dale.

Peter Hay, the strategic director for people, is to be given powers from this September to remove governors from a local authority maintained school or federation of schools “for any or no reason” under new rules to be approved by the council cabinet.

Governors will only be able to serve a maximum of two four-year terms except in exceptional circumstances and will not normally be able to sit on the governing bodies of more than two schools.

Reappointment at the end of a four year term will be subject to performance assessments of individual governors.

The rules will also apply to local authority-nominated governors at academies.

The changes are designed to address issues raised by inquiries into Trojan Horse, which found that governors at a number of academies and local authority schools sought to impose an ultra-conservative Islamic ethos in classrooms.

An investigation ordered by the Department for Education and carried out by former Metropolitan Police counter terror Commander Peter Clarke found examples of boys and girls being segregated, a refusal to teach sex education and anti-American propaganda at assemblies.

Mr Clarke said he had seen “very clear evidence” that young people were encouraged to accept unquestioningly a particular hardline strand of Sunni Islam which raised concerns about their “vulnerability to radicalisation in the future” He concluded:

There has been co-ordinated, deliberate and sustained action, carried out by a number of associated individuals, to introduce an intolerant and aggressive Islamic ethos into a few schools in Birmingham.

This has been achieved by gaining influence on the governing bodies, installing sympathetic headteachers or senior members of staff, appointing like-minded people to key positions, and seeking to remove headteachers they do not feel to be sufficiently compliant.

The new rule book prevents candidates from applying to sit on the governing bodies of specific schools. Instead, if their application is successful, they will be “matched” to an appropriate school.

Anyone wishing to be a governor will need “a strong commitment to the role and to improving outcomes for children, the inquisitiveness to question and analyse, and the willingness to learn as well as good inter-personal skills, appropriate levels of literacy in and sufficient numeracy skills to understand basic data”.

From September council-nominated governors must sign up to the following principles:

  • Ensure that the school follows all relevant policies and procedures to ensure that young people in the need of protection are effectively safeguarded.
  • Support the core functions of a governing body: setting vision and strategic direction, holding the headteacher to account for educational performance and effective management of financial resources.
  • Attending meetings and taking a full part in governing body business.
  • Working as a team member and promoting effective working relationships
  • Expressing views courteously and respectfully in all communication.
  • Respecting lines of demarcation and the role of the headteacher to manage the school.
  • Abide by and be loyal to majority decisions of the Governing Body, maintain confidentiality and undertake induction training.

The new protocol has been criticised by the National Governors Association which said the tougher approach did not go far enough.

NGA spokesman Mike Gardner complained that the council was making no effort to review the performance of individual governors during their term of office. He added:

Only after a four year term and if they apply for re-appointment will their effectiveness and compliance with the code of conduct be considered by BCC. It the NGA’s view that the LA should have an ongoing review process in place for its appointed governors – this could be an annual review.

There is no stated process for the removal of local authority-appointed academy governors. It is the NGA’s view that there should be such a process

A clear lesson from the Trojan Horse case was the importance of understanding conflicts of interest. It is the NGA’s view that the code is not clear enough in this regard. For example, there is no mention of conflict of loyalty or discouragement of appointing family members to the board.

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