Q: How many Parent Governors?

Mark Adams's picture
 16
According to information supplied by Thetford Academy in Norfolk, there is only one parent on the Board of Governors. However, according to the Academies Act 2010 "there must be at least two parent governors" on the Board of an Academy. This has been confirmed in writing by Norfolk County Council.

I have pointed this fact out to the Board of Governors and to the Young Persons Learning Agency, who are currently responsible for funding open Academies - without success.

I do not wish to stand as a Governor myself, but feel that if we parents must play by the rules then so must they.

Do anyone else have any suggestions or any clear information about this?
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Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 13:51

The original governance model for the Labour academies only required one parent governor so maybe this academy doesn't realise the law has changed. Mark touches on a more important point in this post though, which is that it is very difficult for parents to find out who is accountable for academies and complain. The YPLA is an enormous, largely anonymous, bureaucratic, national organisation which sits between parents and the Secretary of State. Under the maintained system, you can simply contact the local authority or lobby your councillor. Parents in schools that are converting often don't understand how this process changes and how little local accountability remains once the school has opted out.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 15:16

Back in January a lawyer warned that regulation of academy schools was "a real dog's dinner" as it was unclear who would oversee these schools. At the time the YPLA was one of the quangos under threat. Has it been saved? If not, then who is going to regulate the academies?

http://www.wilsonslaw.com/news/Academy-schools-regulation-a-real-dogs-di...

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 15:36

Saved and merged into the Education Funding Agency . This new agency and will also control all school capital spending ( taking on Partnership for Schools Responsibilities) as well as post 16, academy funding and regulation. It will be run by the same civil servant who ran the YPLA.

Janet Downs's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 15:41

That is some mega-quango! How on earth is it going to cope with all that responsibility?

Fiona Millar's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 16:27

No doubt it will have lots of staff and plenty of bureaucracy to manage all these government schools.

Tracy Hannigan's picture
Sun, 19/06/2011 - 09:44

Yes, if they have their way, there will be so many that they will have to spread themselves out into regional 'satellites', if not further divide into ever more local satellites - and then where are we? A giant monstrous head with many thousands of arms and suckers, all trying to feed back into that big giant head, becoming confused and drowned in its beurocratic attempt to remain 'central' while pretending to be 'local'. Taking the best of the local authority system, its local responsiveness, and making a nightmare out of requiring that they keep up the pretense of not being the tentacles of centralism.

Adrian Elliott's picture
Sat, 18/06/2011 - 17:16

Whilst I'm well aware of the failings of LAs, I can't help feeling that if Mark had approached his LA about the correct number of parent governors at his local LA school he would have had an instant reply. Its a simple enough request.

Janet Downs's picture
Sun, 19/06/2011 - 07:27

Mark's post made it clear that he had already made "a simple enough request" to the local authority (Norfolk County Council) about the correct number of parent governors needed in an academy. He also made it clear that the LA had given him an answer - there should be two.

The local authority can do nothing about the governance of academies because these schools are outside their control. The only people who should be dealing with problems are the governing body of the academy, the YPLA and the DfE. Mark has said that he has made the governing body and the YPLA aware of the problem but they have not responded.

This demonstrates the problem with academies - their lack of accountability. Local people can't complain to local authorities because they have no power to act over problems with academies. And if an academy's governing body and the DfE ignore complaints then parents have hit a brick wall. So much for localism.

Mark Adams's picture
Sun, 19/06/2011 - 20:13

Thanks for your comments everyone.

To clarify:

My Academies Act information comes from a synopsis for a book entitled: "A Guide to the Academies Act 2010", which can be seen here:
www.thetford-academy.com/academy_governance.com

However, having viewed the Act online on the Parliamentary website, I cannot find the relevant information that the summary quotes.

Whilst writing to clarify the situation with the Local Authority, after being passed around the various departments, I finally received a reply from "S.P.", Senior Development Officer, Governor Services:
"I can however confirm that there should be two parent representatives on the governing body, but I do not know who they are, or the names of the other governors".
The respondor said that the matter would be passed onto the Senior Development Officer for Childrens Services, who later replied that the Academy was now independent and no longer governed by the Council. End of story...

Why do I get the feeling that I am being fobbed off?

Fiona Millar's picture
Sun, 19/06/2011 - 20:20

Mark, I expect we will hear many more stories like this one. You should approach the trust that governs the academy.

Ros Coffey's picture
Wed, 22/06/2011 - 12:13

Mark - you are not being fobbed off, as other have said the LA no longer have to power to intervene with an Academy. As Fiona says, write to the Trust of the Academy and if you get no satisfaction, report them to Mr Gove and see what action he takes... after all he is ultimately responsible.


Mark Adams's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 16:01

@Ros, I have tried them all. Who can I independently complain to?

Although the LA states that the school is independant, the Director of Norfolk Childrens Services is a Director of the Company that forms the Thetford Learning Trust and the LA has the authority to have a post on the Board of Governors - although it has chosen not to in this case.

I have already written to Mr Gove, got the complaint reference number and the T-shirt.

I have made a formal complaint to the Academy, but I cannot be dealt with by the Governors until I have firstly seen a teacher and the Principal. I cannot afford to take 3 days off work.

The YPLA will only step in if the Academys procedures are not followed.

Since my original post, I have been in contact with a specialist education solicitor who suggests that the Trust was formed a month before the Academies Act was enacted, although it should still be governed by the DfE's "Articles of Association".

Janet Downs's picture
Thu, 23/06/2011 - 16:18

This seems to be a deliberate attempt to put off any complainants. First a parent has to see a teacher, and then wait. If after the waiting period, a parent still isn't satisfied, then s/he must meet the Principal - and wait. After that waiting period is past, and the parent still isn't satisfied, then s/he must complain to the Governors - and wait. No joy with the Governors, then it's off to complain to the DfE (or maybe the sponsors if it's an "old" academy). And wait - and wait - and wait.

And given the appallingly slow rate at which the DfE replies to letters now, parents will be waiting a long, long time.

You could try writing to your MP - and wait - and wait. And while parents are waiting, a child's education is suffering.

Mark Adams's picture
Fri, 24/06/2011 - 11:49

Sorry to be one step ahead again Janet, but myself and a few concerned parents have already had several meetings with our MP regarding the potential changes to our local schools following Academy conversion including one with a few of the sponsor Governors.
What promised to be an interesting discussion regarding school closures and the transfer of pupils across town, turned into a "this is what we're going to do" presentation from the sponsors. Everything had been decided and it turned into a show-and-tell.
Our MP could only sit and watch. Even she has no authority over an independent Academy.

Janet Downs's picture
Fri, 24/06/2011 - 16:51

This is a worrying development. In a debate this week in the House of Lords on the localism bill one Lord suggested that localism meant that local authorities could do what they liked as long as the Secretary of State liked it. So much for democracy.

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