TOO many school governing bodies in Sheffield are failing to meet required standards, according to a report to councillors.
Just under 30% were rated as ‘inadequate’ or ‘satisfactory’ - the two lowest categories available - in their most recent Ofsted inspections.
The situation needs to improve if governors are to provide rigorous challenges to headteachers, holding them to account for standards of pupil attainment, according to a report to the city’s education scrutiny committee.
Governors need to be equipped with the skills and confidence to carry out such tasks effectively, it adds - especially in the current context of more schools becoming more autonomous and moving away from local authority control.
Report author Eric Pye says governors are willing to undergo training, and take-up of courses compares well with national and regional averages.
They are willing to work together to share best practice between schools and have a long tradition of doing so.
But Mr Pye says recruiting sufficient numbers of governors is always an issue in the city.
A drive to increase black and ethnic minority representation over the last five years has had limited effect.
Currently 11% of governor positions are vacant, a figure which is comparable to the national average. Sixteen governing bodies had a quarter of their positions unfilled.
The authority is also keen that governors are representative of their communities, know the strengths and weaknesses of their schools and are keenly focused on pupil attainment.
And the whole issue is important, the new report stresses, because governors have a key role to play in improving standards across Sheffield schools.
Inspection reports show the effectiveness of governing bodies is improving year by year, with 56% rated good or outstanding during the last year. But 26% were only ‘satisfactory’ and 3.5% were found to be ‘inadequate’.
The report warns that, as more schools become academies, there is a greater chance that governors do not properly represent their local communities.
The number of parent governors could be reduced and governing bodies could become generally smaller.
Most schools and their governors have signed up to the new City Wide Learning Body, which aims to keep intact the spirit of the Sheffield ‘family of schools’.