Headlines: May 11th, 2006

The Centre for Public Scrutiny wants the governing bodies of schools to follow the example of local councils and separate the roles of governors into executive decision making and scrutiny. The Centre argues that this separation is necessary because the changes taking place in education are weakening local accountability.Current reforms in education and children’s services include the introduction of ‘extended provision in schools’ and the ‘Every Child Matters’ policy, which involve a broader, strategic role for school governors. The development of academies and trust schools will potentially reduce the contribution of parents, while at the same time local councillors will have a reduced role in the planning and administration of education generally.

To ensure that local accountability is maintained as schools become more autonomous it is necessary to develop processes to ensure a strategic approach to governance, together with a strengthened accountability or scrutiny function. The Centre proposes that there should be a streamlined ‘executive’ group made up of governors with skills and experience in strategic management. Responsibilities would include school planning, budgeting and resourcing. In addition there would be non-executive governors in a ‘scrutiny’ role providing ‘critical friend’ challenge and holding the executive governing body to account. Responsibilities would include scrutinising school performance, playing a role in self-evaluation within Ofsted inspections, consulting with students and parents and reviewing the budget to ensure value for money.

The scrutiny role would be strengthened by appointing an independent Chair of Scrutiny and by giving non-executive scrutineers the power to ‘call-in’ major decisions before implementation. This would follow the practice of local authority scrutiny committees and would be consistent with current proposals for ‘community calls for action’ in health and criminal justice.

‘Strengthening public accountability on the school governing body’ is available at: