Holding Executive Leaders to Account

The second of the three core roles of a School Governor, and it's a biggie!

It's one of the areas that I cover for Governors when I run Shaping Governance sessions with them. It's usually an area that Governors are either good or relatively poor at and is often a misunderstood area.  Governors may not be aware of how they can hold Executive Leaders to account.

Firstly, we need to explore what accountability means.

Accountability is where someone explains their decisions and actions to others. Whilst it is a core role of a School Governor to hold Executive Leaders to account, accountability for Governors has many forms. As Governors we:

  • Are accountable to parents, pupils and stakeholders (think Ofsted and the LA) for the performance of our school and ensuring it is compliant;

  • Are accountable for doing our best and committing to being active Governors;

  • Demonstrate accountability through our actions and the way we govern;

  • Demonstrate accountability through the way we levy and record challenge;

  • Hold Executive Leaders to account for the educational performance, internal management and control of the school.

So accountability takes many forms, and I particularly like how Bob Proctor describes it

‘Accountability is the glue that ties commitment to results’

So accountability is the mechanism (glue/system) that helps an organisation move from ambition and vision to achieving results. It's about keeping focused on what you want for children and the school and ensuring that the school delivers through good questioning, challenge, and support.

Governing Boards set the strategic vision and direction of their school and delegate the day to day delivery of this to executive leaders within the school. Governors then hold executive leaders to account for how they put this into action on a day to day basis; how they exercise their professional judgement; how they spend the budget; has it achieved value for money; and how they lead the school and its staff.

Secondly, we need to understand who Executive Leaders are.

Over the last few years, it's evolved from Holding the Headteacher to Account to Holding Executive Leaders to account. This is in recognition that there are now different leaders in different settings, since the emergence of Academies, for example, CEO, Executive Heads, Headteachers, Principals, Head of School etc.

But it's not just Governors that hold Executive Leaders to account within a school. Accountability will also run through the school, with Executive Leaders holding senior and middle leaders to account for their performance. It's almost a 'web of accountability' recognising that sometimes, accountability isn't linear, but with many layers and web-like.

Thirdly, it's time to consider how Governors can hold Executive Leaders to account.

Whilst the responsibility for holding to account sits with the whole Board, it is often delegated to either individual Governors or committees that the Board has. I like to think of it as distributed leadership, and how all Governors can play a key role in monitoring.

There are many ways that Governors hold Executive Leaders to account, and here is a visual of just some of the ways that you can carry this out. I haven't gone into detail on how you can carry out each one, as I may be here all week! But this is something that we can help you to explore; helping you to create your own 'web of accountability'.

Posted in Shaping Governance.