Using the experiences and expertise of governors to address school issues

Debate – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
How the school responds to high number of pupils with additional learning needs (ALN). Staff are very understanding, sympathetic and work very hard to provide for all. However, the training given has not really addressed the issue. It is generally felt that most additional needs cannot be properly addressed in a busy classroom. Teachers are aware that, even with adapted work, and exceptional efforts to motivate and support, they are not able to properly alleviate the problems with literacy, numeracy and behaviour. The financial situation does not allow for extra learning support staff.

I am finding it difficult to convince anyone that there are other less conventional approaches, developed from more recent research that can be used to help ALN pupils learn more effectively. I am concerned that any observation or suggestion will be interpreted as criticism.

What happened?
I am trying to slowly build relationships with staff that might allow me to offer suggestions of how issues can be addressed.

During governor meetings with the ALNCo I have tried to establish, with specific questions (as advised by the Governor Support Service), the school’s position in regards to numbers, assessment and interventions but as yet have not been provided with answers.

What lessons were learnt?
Perhaps if schools knew more about governors’ qualifications, areas of expertise and experience we could be used to greater advantage. I think most of us would be prepared to share that knowledge and experience without seeking financial gain. A real consideration in these straitened times.

It is good practice for a governing body to undertake a skills audit to identify the skills and knowledge that members of the governing body already have. It also enables the governing body to fill any gaps and align future training programmes to individual governor requirements. Governors Cymru Services has a skills audit that can be completed by individual governors, as well as a template to collect the information to provide an overview of governor skills.

This case study focuses on supporting Additional Learning Needs (ALN) requirements within the school and how assistance can be best received to help the school staff. The school will have a policy to follow in conjunction with the SEN /ALN Code of Practice.
Special educational needs: code of practice
The Additional Learning Needs Code and regulations

Many governors will have specific responsibility for key areas of work. One way of doing this is via link governors joined to a curriculum area, year group or specific area. This helps to share the workload and assists governors in fulfilling their strategic role. Each school will appoint a governor to have specific oversight of the school’s arrangements and provision for meeting additional learning needs. It is important to have a clear brief for this role so everyone is clear about the expectations from the outset. Do have a look at any information from your Local Authority, along with Governors Cymru Services’ link governor for SEN/ALN publication.

Having a governor with extensive expertise such as this would be invaluable to a school. It would be a good idea to set up a meeting with relevant staff and agencies as appropriate, to establish the parameters of how the governor’s expertise can be used effectively, as well as looking at how everyone can work together in the best interests of pupils.

Discussing the questions and information that will be needed will be key to success, all in line with school policy and governor visits. The link governor can then submit a report to the governing body as an update.

Examples of useful questions (some are general) that can be asked are provided here.

Please note that the roll out of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act commenced in September 2021. For pupils being assessed for the first time from September 2021, schools must follow the process set out in the ALN Code of Practice. There is a three-year period of transition (until summer 2025) during which time existing statements of SEN, individual education plans, and learning and skills plans will be converted into individual development plans (IDPs). This will be done in a mandatory phased approach on the basis of particular age-based cohorts. During this time, the ALN system will operate in parallel to the SEN system. Further information can be found below:
Additional learning needs transformation programme

Does your governing body conduct an audit of governors’ skills and experiences? Is this shared with school staff?
Have you or any governors you know been frustrated that their professional experience and knowledge is not used by the school?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

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