Transparency in Governance

Buzzword or Byword? How transparent is your governance?

Transparency, in a governance context, means honesty and openness, with transparency and accountability generally considered as the two main pillars of good governance. So given the importance of transparency, I needed it to feature in my Advent Calendar looking at tips for good governance.

Transparency is a principle that should be embedded in all levels of governance, in all forms and phases of schools and colleges. Improving transparency can improve the effectiveness of their governance. Transparency in school governance means that all actions should be clear enough to bear public scrutiny.

Working with many schools allows me to see some great ways of working; however, it also lets me see some failings. One of the biggest pitfalls I see is a lack of understanding about roles and responsibilities [within the board]. Creating effective boards is not rocket science, you need to start with the foundations, and build from there.

Here are three short and simple tips for improving transparency.

So #Tip1 - ensure everyone on the board fully understands their role as a governor, individually and collectively as a Board; what it is to be a governor?  Refreshing your collective understanding of the core roles of governance is also a great idea; what does it mean to be strategic, hold the head to account, and monitor finances?

#Tip2 - every year, sit down and make that you have the basics right for the year ahead. Who is doing what, is a fundamental element of good governance, and ensuring this is communicated across the full governing board, see Governance Jigsaw blog. Try creating terms of reference for different parts of the board, its committees, and for link roles too. Already have TOR? Then review them annually and systematically.

A Scheme of Delegation is a very useful transparency tool. It sets out who will take decisions and carry out certain functions on a governing board. However, there are some functions that cannot be delegated and it is important to check you have this right. Things get a little trickier in Multi-Academy Trusts; when clarity is needed about which level of the trust does what. Here a scheme of delegation will be produced setting out roles and decisions for each layer of the trust. It should also include how the layers communicate and work together.

So #Tip3 - ensure that your Scheme of Delegation is clear, legal, and workable. There are plenty of guides on the internet for helping you to do this - don't reinvent the wheel.

#Tip4 - Communicate, communicate, communicate! As Boards only usually get together in meetings, finding a way of keeping a communication flow going is vital.  There are many Governance Platforms available and I do not recommend any particular one, but having a place where you can centrally communicate and share information improves transparency.

Posted in Shaping Governance.