A News story by Ellena Schuster-Farrell 26 January 2018

Hareclive E-ACT Academy was delighted to host the first-ever Associate Governor Conference in July 2017. Attended by 84 pupils from our academies in the South West, as well as pupils from other schools and academies, the conference was a fantastic opportunity for the pupil governors to come together for a day of collaboration and team-building.

Associate governors are Year 6 pupils, appointed to work as a team to give their views on everything from teaching and learning andacademy leadership and management to behaviour and attendance within their academies. Susan Theobald, Deputy Regional Education Director for the South West and leading the Associate Governor programme, believes that these groups offer a valuable insight into the way their academies work.

“A child once said to me, ‘When did you last walk around this academy at my level?’ which was such a powerful question.  These children are our young Ofsted inspectors. They see things that we sometimes don’t see.”

A tough application process

At Hareclive, St Ursula’s, Greenfield, Perry Court and Ilminster, associate governors are appointed following a rigorous selection process. Advertisements are displayed throughout the academy, encouraging pupils to apply for the role by letter. They are shortlisted and invited for interview, where they must give a presentation on what it would mean to them to be an associate governor. Pupils will then receive a letter by post confirming whether or not their application has been successful. Pupils appointed as associate governors are then given training on how to work well as part of a team. They are also shown what quality learning looks like so that they can identify it and share their views and opinions around it. The associate governors get the chance to understand how academies are led and managed, why attendance is important and to discuss the attitudes and behaviours of learning. Equipped with these skills, associate governors are able to play an important role in the ongoing evaluation of their academies.

Making meaningful changes

Pupils take the position incredibly seriously, working together to write their own code of conduct. Groups have even taken it upon themselves to counsel members who are unable to uphold the high standard of behaviour that the pupils set for themselves.

Across all five academies, pupils are keen to make meaningful changes where they can and suggest improvements where they see fit. As part of a recent Raising Attainment Board at one academy, for example, associate governors carried out a behaviour learning walk, offering their views on behaviour, attendance and attitudes to learning in the academy. At the end of the walk, they submitted their assessment as requested, but had also decided amongst themselves to provide staff with possible next steps.

Collaborating with other academies

2017’s Associate Governor Conference was a chance for E-ACT’s associate governors to collaborate, not only amongst themselves but with other pupils from a variety of schools and academies from Gloucester, Devon and Somerset. The tone of the day was set by an opening message sent by Sir David Carter, the National Schools Commissioner:

“I was thrilled to learn of the work of the KS2 students and their focus on helping teachers and governors make their schools better. Children have a different and unique insight into the education that they experience and we should do even more to find out what young people think about the learning they participate in. Whilst I cannot attend your conference in person I wish you the very best and would encourage you to continue evaluating and assessing every experience whilst making sure ‎that you share the outcomes far and wide.”

Pupils had prepared presentations on teaching and learning in their academies, which they shared with the other delegates. They then took part in a learning walk around Hareclive, observing different year groups and discussing their findings. Susan was amazed by the standard of work and the attitudes of the Year 6 pupils.

“It was very impressive to see the level of maturity and confidence each delegate demonstrated during the conference.  Presentations were delivered to a high standard and truly represented the good practice that is clearly happening across our network of academies.”

Due to the huge success of the day, the schools and academies involved have decided to make the Associate Governors Conference an annual event. In the meantime, E-ACT’s associate governors in the South West will continue to work together within their academies, and within their region, to make positive changes throughout the year.