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School governors to promise ‘integrity and honesty’ in Trojan Horse purge

School governors to promise ‘integrity and honesty’ in Trojan Horse purge

🕔29.Jul 2014

The immediate consequences of Trojan Horse will begin to be felt this September with extensive changes to the way Birmingham city council appoints school governors.

For the first time governors will have to sign up to the Nolan principles of public office, which are selflessness, integrity, objectivity, honesty, accountability and leadership.

They will also have to promise to express their views courteously and respectfully, work as a team member, be respectful of democracy and undertake training.

The recruitment of local authority governors was suspended in April when it became clear that governance arrangements at schools in the Trojan Horse probe would be severely criticised.

Three inquiries into allegations of infiltration by hardline Muslims concluded that a small number of governors had effectively taken over schools and were imposing a narrow faith-based ideology on pupils and teachers.

Ian Kershaw, appointed by the council to examine Trojan Horse allegations, found that some governors regarded themselves as “activists” and were using their role as “a means to an end”.

He uncovered incidents of governing bodies and governors bullying head teachers in order to remove them from post without due process.

The Kershaw report, and inquiries by Ofsted and education commissioner Peter Clarke, criticised the council for ignoring  complaints about the misconduct of governors for several years.

Birmingham’s cabinet has approved interim arrangements for appointing governors from September, to be followed by a further review at the beginning of next year.

Under the new rules, the city council has reserved the right to remove governors “either for good reason or no reason at all”.

All decisions about council-appointed governors will be made by the Local Authority School Governor Appointment Committee, consisting of three councillors, two governors and two head teachers. Prospective governors must provide two references to support their application.

The political appointments process, where the main parties on the council share out governor nominations, will be dropped.

Cllr Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children and family services, admitted that the system used for appointing governors before April this year was “no longer fit for purpose”.

Cllr Jones said: “The headline changes are that rather than political appointments supplemented by volunteers we will be moving to a system whereby we ask people to volunteer on a non-political party basis.

“We will also ask people to confirm their commitment to the Nolan principles and there will be a more robust job description for governors.

“These are people responsible for running multi-million pound organisations. It is a serious job and deserves a serious recruitment process.

She stressed that most of Birmingham’s 6,000 governors were hard-working and dedicated and it was to be regretted that their names had been “dragged through the mud” by the misbehaviour of a few individuals.

Liberal Democrat group leader Paul Tilsley said the changes in the appointment process were necessary but would inevitably make it even harder to find volunteers who wanted to become school governors.

Cllr Tilsley said: “It has always been difficult to recruit school governors and the reality is that by placing additional barriers in the way it is going to be even more difficult.

“Being a school governor now is a little bit more than turning up once a term. It’s a thankless task at the best of times.

“They have a lot of responsibility and I do have some real concerns that we are not reaching out into the community in the way that we should be to try to capture as wide a market as possible from people with an interest in children’s education.”

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