What should the relationship be between schools and councillors?

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Su Turner. Tags: ,

 

Schools are at the heart of our communities yet the distance between the head teacher’s office and the town hall seems further apart than ever. How well do ward councillors really know the schools in their patch? I have been asking this question over the last eighteen months and more often than not the answer is ‘not well enough’.

The immediate response might well be, “why should they?” I would argue now is a crucial time for councillors to understand and get to know their local schools better. With the government’s ambition to turn all grant maintained schools in to academies, elected officials as community leaders need to find new ways to build relations as the more formal levers fall away.

The answer to how they do this is better working relationships – it always sounds ‘motherhood and apple pie’ but a good working relationship can be a powerful improvement tool.

Our latest report Your School, Your Community, published this week, sets out both the reasons for ward councillors to foster better links with local schools and the practical benefits of these relationships – to the councillor, the council and the school.

A stronger relationship between school leaders and councillors can help the school to understand (and dare I say it) influence local decision making to support what they want to achieve. It also helps the councillor (and council) to better understand how to support specific schools, help meet statutory duties, anticipate future problems and plan ways that schools and councils can work together to deliver the best possible outcomes for the community’s young people.

Our project has thrown up countless examples where this relationship has yielded positive results, for example where closer working helped a school to excel where once they were in special measures.

As a former Chair of Governors I was startled that during my four-year tenure my ward councillor didn’t once get in touch to find out about the school and what could be done to make it better, to help it thrive. These are missed opportunities which are easy to put right – a quick call, a short visit, an exchange of emails could be all it takes to begin a fruitful relationship which benefits the whole community.

Take a read of our new publication ‘Your school, your community’.

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About the Author: Su Turner

CfPS has a wealth of experience in supporting the governance and scrutiny of safeguarding, children’s services and education, for more information please contact us by emailing: info@cfps.org.uk.This page was originally authored by Su Turner, formerly Director of Children and Young People, who left CfPS in April 2017.