Cheshire East Governors’ Conference Report 

Christine Quinn Jacky Forster Jos SaundersThe Cheshire East Governors’ Conference was held at Cranage Hall in Holmes Chapel this year. Delegates numbered over 100 with governors representing 69 schools, including maintained and academies. 

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive and some comments are included below: 

  • Probably the best one yet
  • Networking benefit as well as content
  • A great session with some insightful questions and well considered answers. Exciting times for governance to deliver the best education for all our children
  • Great opportunities to chat and share ideas and thoughts with others
  • Very well organised and good speakers/sessions 
  • Panel approach worked well. Pertinent questions and answers
  • Thank you all for a very interesting and, without doubt, a very informative day

Councillor Jos Saunders, Cabinet Member for Children and Families, opened the conference and outlined the programme and thanked governors for their voluntary and vital role in ensuring the best possible education for every child. 

Jacky Forster, Director of Education and 14-19 Skills then gave an outline of the Local Authority’s position, including: 

  • Local and national trends in performance;
  • Key improvement priorities;
  • School place planning;
  • Outcomes for the most vulnerable.

The presentations from the day are available below:

David HarrisThe keynote session was led by Dave Harris, Director of Independent Thinking Ltd.  Dave outlined his notion of Brave Leadership which was the theme for the conference and converted this to Brave Governance. Dave defines this concept in a number of ways, principally the idea is that bravery is about doing what you know to be the right thing for the pupils in your school, or more succinctly, to misquote Kipling . . . ‘how to keep your cool when all about you are losing theirs’.

We believe that this ‘Brave’ concept is equally applicable to the vital work of all governors, whose key role is not only to set the strategic direction of the school, but to hold leaders to account, keeping their needle in the groove leading towards it. 

Dave Harris, Director of Independent Thinking Ltd.

Following Dave’s keynote on Brave Governance, we moved towards a series of sessions that were intended to assist in thinking out the practical steps towards achieving the strategic vision set by the governors. Our Academies Regional Commissioner, Christine Quinn, gave a very clear presentation which illustrated a useful four step approach to school improvement, including the key questions that governors should pose at each stage in order to assure themselves of impact. Every school could take this on - the process is generic and not related to academy status. 

Following Christine Quinn was Helen O’Neill, Senior Her Majesty’s Inspector (HMI), responsible for the delivery of Ofsted’s curriculum research project along with  its later inclusion into the new inspection framework. Helen outlined the key issues that have been observed in the classroom and in schools - not as a result of failure but more as unintended consequences of the current system, including the accountability framework. Helen explained that the focus currently was on gaining knowledge in too few subjects, resulting in curricula that are driven by end point assessment - and consequential focus on teaching to the test.  

Mike and MarkThe final session of the day was an open forum in which Mark Palethorpe, our Acting Strategic Director of People, chaired a Q&A session answering questions posed by delegates. This was a new session following feedback from previous events and delegates had the opportunity to debate matters directly with leaders from the Local Authority, Ofsted/HMI and the Regional Schools’ Commissioner.

The conference links to a new initiative by the Local Authority to develop a primary and secondary group of professionals to lead and develop curriculum approaches in advance of the new framework. This is a Brave approach in that it will be rooted in doing what all education professionals know is right – with an appropriate balance of innovative curricula and examination/core subjects. Such an approach will work to develop the deeper and broader knowledge base in children – a vital tool in the process of building capable and future ready individuals. 

Sincere thanks go to our external colleagues and those from Children and Families who hosted a stand on the day, along with everyone involved in the operational organisation of this successful event. The Governance and Liaison team do an outstanding job in ensuring such events are organised and managed as effectively as possible and we are grateful for their excellent work.

Mike Harris Service Manager: School Governance and Liaison