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A termly update to all governors in church schools from Dan Roberts at SDBE, the Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education.
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Thank You, Governors!

Welcome to this somewhat ‘special’ edition of ‘Thank You Governors’.
Firstly, I really want to offer the most sincere and massive ‘Thank You’ to you all! As governors, I hope you know that you too are a vital part of the response to COVID 19.
 
Through the provision of practical and wellbeing support to our education professionals, you are a key part of the emergency response supporting schools - whilst they stay open for key workers’ children and those children who are deemed as vulnerable, and whilst they simultaneously lead learning for children remaining at home. In addition, I recognise that so many of you are personally and together standing alongside our schools and other community partners to meet the huge variety of other local needs, and in so doing are generating stories that will be told for generations to come.

As those charged with holding the strategic leadership role for our schools and Trusts, you are the enablers and developers of the continuity planning now as well as the recovery planning for when schools reopen fully. As volunteers who already give up so much of their time for the benefit of the children and adults in our schools, and who are now being asked to find a new and additional way of being the best governor you can be when all around seems changed, I offer you every possible thanks.
As you would imagine, this edition of the newsletter is focused mainly on providing you with information that I hope will be of particular use in these exceptional times. I hope you will be able to take from the range of links below those that are of help to you, and not feel daunted by or under pressure to access others!

Dan Roberts, SDBE Foundation Governance and Academy Trusts Adviser, April 2020.

Contents

Throughout this document, ‘governors’ refers equally to ‘trustees’, ‘directors’ and ‘members’. Furthermore the ‘SDBE’ means the ‘Salisbury Diocesan Board of Education’. Click a link to jump to a section.

It's finally here!

SDBE’s Church School Governance microsite is fully operational and online applications for Foundation Governors all across the Diocese have begun.

Login details have been sent to all school and academy Clerks. This means that they are now able to update information locally on all non-Foundation roles on your governing body and can initiate new processes to appoint or re-appoint those in Foundation roles.

Because of these exceptional times and the consequent action we had to take as SDBE to furlough a proportion of our staff, the logins were released to all Clerks in the final week of the Spring Term, even though some had not yet had the opportunity to run through the test site to get used to the system first. We do ask for your patience therefore as those of us SDBE staff who remain learn for ourselves how to operate the aspects of the fully live system that we too are only now able to get used to.

Additional functionality and upgrades will be added to the system over the coming weeks including, crucially, the extension of the facility to enable Clerks of multi academy Trusts to initiate applications for Foundation Trustees and Foundation Members. This will be especially welcomed by our SDBE Corporate Member representatives who are still having to operate the ‘old’ system at present using Forms A, B and C until this upgrade arrives. (Note: Please contact me directly, dan.roberts@salisbury.anglican.org if you need any of these forms as they are no longer available from the website).


The feedback we have received so far has been extremely positive, with comments being made on how intuitive and straightforward the system is to use, and how useful Clerks how found the ‘crib sheet’ to be. Please check with your Clerk to find out their experiences so far of using the system, and if you want to see for yourself how the system works, the crib sheet can be found here.
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Governance in these times

•    Holding Virtual Meetings
  1. NGA blog - here
  2. ICSA guidance with especially useful appendices section ‘for presenters’, ‘ground rules’ for participants and a virtual meeting providers comparison tool - here
  3. Association of Chairs short guide with useful links to online platform resources - here
  4. More useful brief guidance and tips for virtual meetings from FSI (Foundation for Social Improvement) - here
  5. Governors for Schools blog - here
  6. BYOD (Bring your own device) + GDPR – until this situation, I had not come across the phrase ‘BYOD’.  In my view, ascribing a phrase like this to something that we most likely already have long held within our subconscious and taken appropriate care with, and in our own ways, and especially since the arrival of GDPR, is very useful. It also presents anew the opportunity to consider or review the formal measures to be deployed that seek to address the security and other issues that arise when we are forced to rely on personally owned devices to conduct our shared business.
    Though it is true that as governors in schools and Trusts we have long been used to the dynamic of not having a specific ‘work device’ that we use solely for the purposes of governance, the current emphasis on working from home has brought the issue to the fore.This is as true for us as governors and staff as it now will also be for many pupils too.  

    If you have not already done so therefore, this is an ideal time for you as a governing board to consider a BYOD Policy and guide for practice.

    As with the GDPR and other issues that need to be considered around virtual meetings, do work closely with the Data Protection Officer (DPO) for your school or Trust, as well as considering obtaining specialist support from one of the many legal firms who specialise in education matters, some of whom are offering free or discounted support and webinars in their capacity as partner organisations to the Confederation of School Trusts, (here) and the National Governance Association through their GOLDline (here).

•   Determining What Matters Most
  1. Guidance from the Charity Commission guidance on deciding on the critical issues that need to be discussed - here
  2. Main DfE guidance pages:
    1. for schools – link here
    2. for governors – link here
  3. Helpful guidance from ‘The Key for School Governors’ - here
  4. Critical Incident planning – as with BYOD in topic 1, a great many of you within governance have already been using these times to ‘test and learn’ the resilience of governance and this has perhaps been most apparent in the areas of Critical Incident Plans. As the COVID 19 situation continues, many events and activities still lie ahead of us that will further test our capacity for effective response, some of which we are able to anticipate whilst there are others which we seem less able to.

    Some of my colleagues within SDBE have been busy collating and distributing helpful guidance and this includes links to useful resources relating to bereavement and social distancing which can be found here.

•   Sustaining Governance
  1. Recruitment of new governors and Trustees –  
    1. Virtual recruitment of new governors / Trustees. NGA have provided a free webinar here.
    2. With more people at home, now might be an opportune time to consider utilising available online tools to recruit volunteers yourself for your Board. Anyone typing ‘Become a school governor’ into Google will be directed first to Governors for Schools (here) and also Inspiring Governance (here). There is also a useful guide here from Girlguiding UK
  2. Guide to remotely managing recruitment of staff from The Key for School Leaders – link here
  3. For both…succession planning for those in leadership (see below) and other key roles…during these times. In governance particularly, having robust plans in place to enable people to step in or step up for either the short or longer term, especially the Chair and Committee Chairs, is a further demonstration of your strong governance.
  4. School Leader Recruitment - The SDBE gifts our support to all church schools and academies for headteacher/CEO recruitment. Our guidance can be found here. The advisory team for School Leader Recruitment have developed resources to support governors and MAT Trustees in recruiting and interviewing during this time. ‘Virtual’ interview material and ways to work remotely are being used in some processes, while others, by agreement, are being ‘paused’ until there is a return to more normal times.
  5. It is recommended that governing bodies/trust boards plan ahead for senior leadership recruitment, in advance of having a resignation.  For example checking the pay policy and identifying the possibilities of a different leadership structure might be best carried out when there is no anticipated change. Please contact Nicola Coupe with any questions.Business Continuity Plans – link here - ‘The Key’ have produced this downloadable checklist, and those with a subscription can access examples of Business Continuity Plans from a link within the checklist.
  6. Business Continuity Plans – link here - ‘The Key’ have produced this downloadable checklist, and those with a subscription can access examples of Business Continuity Plans from a link within the checklist.
  7. Safeguarding guidance for governors from the NGA – here
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SDBE MAT Policy          

and a pre-briefing on the Small Schools Strategy                     
Although this has already been received by all of the church schools with Salisbury Diocese since being approved by the SDBE Board, I wanted to make you aware that the SDBE MAT Policy can be found here.
This policy provides clear guidance for all church schools, but especially for those not currently in strong multi academy Trusts, and it will shortly be complimented by the publication of the SDBE Small Schools Strategy. The operation of this strategy will be led by my SDBE colleague, Giles Pugh, our Deputy Director. I look forward to sharing more details on this with you all very soon.
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A final reflection

The following reflection is one that I was asked to create for the SDBE ‘Thought for the Week’ and was first published on Easter Monday. Being two weeks further into the national emergency means this version is slightly amended from the original.
“Staying at home to work has meant I’ve seen things happening outside I’d normally miss. For instance, a blackbird searching for sticks. Once he’s filled his beak with twigs, he flies off before returning a short time later for some more. This led me to reflect on how things from the past, though seemingly ‘of a time’ can sometimes find a new and different purpose in the here and now. In the blackbird’s case, creating an environment in which new life will hopefully flourish.
As we continue to reflect on Christ’s glorious rising from the tomb on that first Easter Day, I cannot help but link the transforming work being undertaken taken by the blackbird with that of Christ himself and am reminded of our own ongoing and ultimately eternal transformation to come.

“But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” Philippians 3: 20-21

All of our lives have been changed by the extraordinary events of this past month; some of these changes have brought unthinkable loss and the deepest sorrow. Some of the things we did, and the ways we did them, may be permanently consigned to history. But there will no doubt also be things from the past that we will pick up again, just like my blackbird has been doing. So, what will be the things within governance that you long to pick up again – what will your ‘twigs’ be? How might we ‘resurrect’ them and for what purpose? And perhaps as importantly, which twigs might you choose to leave on the ground?”
Incidentally, since observing ‘my blackbird’ back when I first wrote this reflection piece, I have now discovered that the nest this pair of blackbirds have been building is directly beneath the window of what has become my home office. I am therefore daily reminded of the new life and purposes that are emerging from these exceptional times, and it is my hope that you too can experience the same in each of your own contexts.
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Letter from our Diocesan Director
Joy Tubbs

On the final day of the Spring Term, Joy sent out a letter to all school leaders, and I am sharing this with you in case you have not seen it;

“Dear Colleague
I can only begin to imagine the complexity of your week and thank you so very much for all that you are doing everyday in leading your school. We have become very aware of the scope and scale of your work at this time – far beyond your classroom provision for children that are vulnerable and the children of key workers. We can see the depth of compassion that is being shown by you for the communities you serve.
 
We are pleased to be in close contact with LAs, through daily on-line conferencing and written briefings (Mandy Christopher and Linda Rowley are fulfilling that role). I have regular contact with the Regional Schools Commissioner and wider RSC/DfE team. We continue to thank MAT CEOs and teaching school leads who are playing a vital leadership role in this time. Through these meetings/relationships, should you consider there is anything we should be aware of or act on which would support you please do let us know. I hope you find the worship resources, shared with you this week helpful, and as you would expect we are working to support you with material and pastoral support as you support your communities with bereavement. We hope these small steps support you; do not hesitate to flag to us needs which you believe we can help with.
 
We know that for the majority of you, this Easter will bring little respite as so many schools remain open. We do not underestimate the demands being made on you and how hard this must be alongside the vital importance of your own family life.
 

DBE change
I thought it important to update you on change at the DBE in light of the national crisis. We are only a tiny part of your support system but we believe one that you value; we do not want to add to your burden at this time and assure you that despite the following changes, we remain here for you.
 
As a charity our Trust Board is deeply aware of the potential impact of the virus on DBE income streams; our future staffing is at significant risk because of the loss of a range of such streams including investment returns, Trust Grants to our charity, the hire of our building for external courses for local firms and of course the courses which we lead for schools and parishes.
 
We have thus moved to mitigate the risk, enabling us to preserve staffing and the organisation for the long term; this has led to the furlough, with their consent, of just over a third of our staff (6 staff out of entire staff of 17) from either the 1st or 4th April for a period to the 31st May 2020. This includes staff from Senior Leadership, Advisory, and administration teams.  We have let our staff know this may be extended but this would again be with their consent. We are expecting to furlough further staff in the coming weeks, potentially leaving a core team of staff.
 
There are important work streams which need to continue, including support for Church schools which have such a vital role in this crisis; we are working hard to ensure we can meet your needs at this time, whilst also ensuring we are there for you for the long term future. Our website makes clear the contact numbers of all staff who continue to work and we will be in touch with you again once we have fully re-distributed roles across the team over this next week or so.
 
Nicola Coupe and Mandy Christopher will continue in their role as your school improvement advisers and thus your immediate link to the DBE; Neil Revell will move into furlough. Neil will be writing to you if you are supported by him, and we will ensure you have a new contact number for the duration of the time that he is not with us. I can imagine many of you supported by Neil would want to wish him well for his return to headship in the autumn; I promise I will enable that to happen nearer the time.
 
One of our Trustees, mindful of the hard moments being faced shared the following with me, and I share this with you in the hope that it will comfort you in the complexity of all of the decisions you are making, large and small, personal and professional:
 
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. (Deuteronomy 33:27)
 
Here is a beautiful Celtic encircling prayer from Iona. It reminds me of the prayer for protection and safety in Ephesians 6 - The Armour of God. It's a really moving one to pray during these uncertain times.

 
My Christ,
My shield,
My encircler,
each day,
each night,
each light,
each dark,
be near me,
uphold me,
my treasure,
my triumph.
  
We are praying for you and your leadership at this complex time. Remember we are here for you and will continue to be so.
 
Kind regards,
Joy
Canon Joy Tubbs

Diocesan Director of Education
With our very grateful thanks for your leadership and the way you support your school and MAT leaders.

Dan

Dan Roberts
Foundation Governance and Academy Trusts Adviser
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Main Contacts

Foundation Governance and Academy Trusts Adviser
Dan Roberts
01722 746952
dan.roberts@salisbury.anglican.org
Dan leads on governor strategy and works with schools and parishes in governor recruitment, retention and training.
Education Services Assistant
Pam Clemett
01722 746952
pam.clemett@salisbury.anglican.org
Pam handles data processing for governor body members, minutes of meetings and renominations.
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