On the third Monday of every month Dr Sue, Holex director of policy and external relations, answers your questions, backed by the experience of almost a decade as principal of Canterbury College, in addition to time served in senior civil service posts at central government departments covering education and skills.
Ofsted’s role in monitoring Prevent Strategies
Last year, the governing body I am on signed off a safe guarding and Prevent strategy and at a recent board meeting we monitored the implementation of the action plan. We were surprised to find that in our short Ofsted inspection this was highlighted as an area we had to do more work on. We were also surprised by the level of scrutiny this area was put through and wondered whether it was proportional to the size of the issue?
College governors are expected to set the Prevent strategy for the college and to ensure that the college strategy complies with the Prevent Duty as set out in the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015.
Ofsted has been given the monitoring role and therefore have put in place a process for doing that as part of their inspection.
They are evaluating whether governors are appropriately scrutinising the practice in the college, including reviewing whether the Preventing Extremism risk assessment is rigorous enough.
Ofsted want is to see that the policies and procedures signed off by governors are in place, being followed, and that they are successful in preventing students being drawn into terrorism and extremism.
Therefore, what your college went through was appropriate to the role Ofsted has been given.
What I think might have surprised you was Ofsted’s increased focus on fundamental British values and the need for students to not only be confident to speak about those values, but can also use the precise vocabulary.
Vote of No Confidence
Our staff governor has told us that a group of staff intend to ballot the rest of the staff on a vote of no confidence in the principal. This is the first we have heard of it and we don’t even know what their grievance is. We are unclear what the correct process is and how we should react?
I would have hoped that before a group of staff got to the point of organising a ballot that they would have followed the college procedures for complaints against senior staff.
Depending on existing relationships and what mechanisms there are for governors to talk to staff, you could meet and ask what the issue is.
Otherwise, I suggest asking the clerk to republish the procedures and remind staff that it if they have a complaint or grievance they should use those procedures to express their concerns.
If there is cause for concern, the board should take the appropriate action
The governing body can then put in place the right process to review the complaint and, if there is cause for concern, the board should take the appropriate action.
However, looking at situations where this has arisen in the past, often the staff are taking it out on the principal when all she/he has been doing is implementing a policy agreed by the governing body or directed by the government.
In cases like this, the principal should be supported fully by the governors and they should express their full confidence.
Improving English and maths and what governors should be doing
In your last Q and A, you talked about the role of a link governor. I am the governing body link for English and maths. As a governing body we are keen to raise standards. What questions should I be asking?
You have a very important role as this link governor. Just as it should be, English and maths is a key priority for the government and a crucial element of every college programme.
On which questions to ask, you should start with the agreed policy and ask how that policy is working out in practice.
English and maths is a key priority of the government
Enquire whether the changes the college have introduced to ensure every young person continues with English and maths are operating well?
Are they making an impact and improving performance? Do they have issues recruiting staff and, if so, how are they managing?
How is the college implementing the new guidance on GCSE resits and stepping stone qualifications for 16-18 year olds and those between 19-24?
How do they identify those who need extrasupport? Do they do catch up in small groups and, if so, what is the impact?
Ask about the programme for adults. How do they identify adults who need support and how is initial assessment done? Are they able to offer intensive provision?
Do they work with employers to support their workforce and what are they doing for their apprentices?
Your link work is vital and should be supported by the other link governors, who should also be asking about English and maths when they visit they areas of interest and they should pass on that information to you.