A leader once again as former head is first to take new role

Ed Wydenbach
Ed Wydenbach

Former headteacher Ed Wydenbach is again taking a top role in Sheffield education - as the city’s first National Leader of Governance.

At present he is the only one in this area, appointed to help boost leadership skills, in the process improving children’s learning.

But Ed believes a new Ofsted focus on governance, coupled with local government cutbacks, will result in a surge in demand for support, and he is appealing to other potential leaders to come forward.

“Sheffield provides very good support for governors, so there hasn’t been the need for this role up to now. But I think the local authority will struggle to keep it up as resources become more stretched,” he said. “I think this will be a real growth area.”

The new NLGs are drafted into schools to review governance and support the governing body in identifying priorities, evaluating performance and developing its role.

“The major role for governors now is to work alongside the senior team and hold them to account. They used to be seen as a critical friend, but these days the criticism is more important than friendship,” he said.

Ed, aged 65, was head of the former Myrtle Springs comprehensive for nine years, leading it out of special measures and then out of local authority control to become Springs Academy.

But he was a casualty of that switch, provoking an outcry across the education community when he lost his job.

Since then he has used his retirement to pursue his role as a governor, with experience at schools ranging from Greenlands Nursery Infant School to Newfield, Ecclesfield and Stocksbridge secondaries.

In the last seven years he has worked in six schools and is currently chair of governors at Handsworth Grange Community Sports College, which has become one of the 100 most improved schools in the country.

Its success led to his invitation to apply for the new, voluntary role as a National Leader - which he began last month following a rigorous selection and induction process.

He has already been appointed to carry out two reviews, at schools in Sheffield and Doncaster, and he is expecting an influx of requests over the coming months.

“I think more schools, as part of Ofsted preparations, will ask for a review,” he says.

“My job isn’t about creating the kind of schools I want, it’s about supporting governors to create the school they want.

“The challenge is how you develop this new relationship between heads, senior staff and governors, and the improvements that can be made.”