Ethics in Education

Ethics in Education - Weak Governors 

  • By Ian White
  • 14 Sep, 2016

Ethics in Education – A Weak Governing Body

Of the seven indicators that support an environment where ethics are more likely to be compromised in schools we have covered so far:

“An over obsession with the numbers”, “Fear and Silence”, and “Larger than Life Leaders”

Now we need to look at the fourth indicator, which is when the group giving oversight, challenge and strategy to the organisation is weak, the governing body.

At this point it is worth mentioning that most School or Academy Governors are genuine, honest, well-intentioned people who give up their free time to help. Most, but not all.

However, this does not prevent the governing body from being weak.

What makes them weak?

  • They don’t know what questions to ask?
  • They do not have the experience or expertise to dig deep
  • Collusion with the Headteacher
  • Fear of the Headteacher
  • Conflicts of interest

What a difference it might make if Governors had an ethics policy and went through an ethical process when they were making the big decisions. But even more than that, a governing body has to be strong or the chances of ethical compromise are high.

How many times had something been unearthed and come to light, only for the governing body to be unaware, or to have been compliant in the process? I am not talking about having a difficult governing body that over-steps the mark or tries and influence curriculum or intake, just a strong governing body doing its job.  And when its weak, ethical compromise is not be far away.

So what should you do to ensure a strong Governing body?

Here are some ideas that could be a good start:

Dig deep into conflict of interests and not allow people on the Governing body:

  • Who are friends with anyone on the leadership team
  • Who are related to other members of the Governing body
  • Who have shared business interests
  • Who are past employees of the School or Academy or MAT

Only have people who have the experience, time and integrity to be worthy of the role.

Ensure that there is a direct way for employees to communicate with Governors, anonymously if required, such as direct email link or website page, with no screening by management.  Encourage contact; publish to all staff any concerns raised and the actions that were taken.

Change the Chair and Vice-Chair every 3 years with no exceptions.

Challenge all results and predictions, investigate, dig down, and look under the numbers.   Especially when things are going well.

Pay attention to benefits given to Governors. Often this is very little, but this is increasingly not the case.  

All Governors walk around the school once a month, including over a break or dinner, without a member of the senior staff, at least once a month.

We will continue to ask the question: Do ethically sound schools achieve better outcomes in the medium to long term, and do ethically compromised schools fail in the medium to long term?


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Next blog: Ethics in education – Conflicts of Interest

Much of this thinking and ideas stem from the book ‘The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse’ by Marianne Jennings as well as ’Good to Great’ by Jim Collins

‘Ethics in Education’ – A new research based project by David Howard, Clare Wolfenden, Janet Oosthuysen, Andy Thorpe and Ian White (Bradford College, England, UK).

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