2021 Conference Review

NGN 2021 Conference 

Together we are building back better 

100 governors, trustees, clerks and senior leaders came together for Norfolk Governance Network’s (NGN) second virtual conference on Saturday 9th October. Following 2020’s successful event and after yet another very challenging year for all those in our schools and communities, the conference, themed Building Back Better aimed to put safeguarding rightly at the heart of our work. 

NGN’s Annual General Meeting preceded the conference and in her Chair’s Annual Report, Anne Gibson, NGN’s Chair gave an overview of the last year and the ongoing work of NGN. She talked about the virtual events NGN have held, including last year’s conference , our governor’s update event, and a lively conversation about SEND that were all well received and made it easier to bring people together across the length and breadth of Norfolk. 

She highlighted that NGN has a seat at the table in Norfolk and that gives us the opportunity as governors and trustees to make a difference across the system as well as in our individual schools and academies. It is now over 20 months since Covid-19 appeared and its impact has been profound.  It has affected us all in our personal lives as well as in our roles as school governors and trustees. As a country the approach is now to learn to live with Covid. The day-to-day implications of that as well as the cumulative impact of the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of our children and young people and on our school teams are considerable. That is something that is and will continue to occupy us individually and collectively in our governing boards.    

Anne Gibson opened the Conference with a Young Carers video which highlighted the challenges that some of our children and young people face before they get through the school gates.   

There is nothing more important than the voices of our children and young people. There are many challenges facing children and young people today, but our Young Carers are a group that are not always heard so we wanted to give them the stage to open our conference. As governors we have an important role to play in ensuring the young carers in our schools get the support they need. For example, there is a Carer Friendly Tick Award -Education that we could consider pursuing or we could have a governor or trustee with a particular responsibility for young carers.  An important fact to highlight about young carers is that there are many of them in our primary schools, but it often doesn’t come to light until they move to High School.  

The Chair’s welcome finished with another Young Carers video, called Misunderstood which was produced by Great Yarmouth and Gorleston Young Carers, the short film was powerful and acted as a useful reminder to governors that we should ensure that our schools shouldn’t look at behaviour and attendance issues in isolation. Norfolk Young Carers Forum | Young Carers Support Group (caringtogether.org) 

The first speaker was Chris Robson, Independent Chair of Norfolk Safeguarding Children Partnership whose ‘Who are we, what do we do and most importantly how can we help?’ talk explained the valuable work that NSCP carry out for the children and young people in Norfolk and how vital governors are in the process of keeping young people safe. A lively discussion followed Chris’ talk with governors asking about early years, monitoring, information for governing boards and of course Covid, including concern for those who were taken off roll to be home schooled during the pandemic.  

Delegates could then choose one of four workshops, Dr Janet Goodall, associate professor at Swansea University presented ‘Coming back from lockdown, why parents matter’ sharing the value of parental engagement for children and young people’s learning. Lucy Canning, Safeguarding Adviser with the Norfolk Safeguarding Team spoke about the Culture of Safeguarding and talked about the significant changes in Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021. Pat Bullen who is well known in the world of special educational needs and inclusion, presented a ‘SEND/Inclusion Focus’ workshop, where she shared some of the key points and considerations that governors need to know about SEND. The fourth workshop was hosted by Jon Nice, Senior Advisor at Norfolk County Council, Jon delivered a popular session called ‘Demystifying the curriculum for governors.’ All presentations will be available on the NGN Conference 2021 – Norfolk Governance Network page on NGN’s website.  

The second speaker needed little introduction to delegates, Emma Knights OBE is the Chief Executive of National Governance Association. Emma who lived in Norfolk for several years shared the NGA’s campaign ‘Visible Governance.’ Originally launched early in 2020, the campaign was interrupted by the pandemic but Emma and likely all in governance would agree just how important it is to raise the profile of governance. Emma’s presentation included much praise of the work that governors have continued to do over such a difficult time. Throughout Emma’s talk as with the whole conference, there were questions and conversations being shared in chat. 

Emma Knights, was joined by Sarah Shirras, Sarah is Headteacher at St Williams Primary School, Senior Adviser, Leadership and Governance, Education Strategy and Infrastructure with Norfolk Children’s Services and Vice Chair at Educate Norfolk. Anne Gibson, NGN Chair was joined by Alison Woodward, NGN Vice Chair who facilitated the Question Panel from the many questions raised. Questions included the commitment that governance requires, particularly for those working full-time, remote meetings have facilitated this. Governor mentors from other schools as well as the key areas of strategic governance. One area of discussion was about recognising good governance here in Norfolk and how this could be done. The final question, perhaps one of the most timely considering the conference theme was should governors read Keeping Children Safe in Education 2021 (and all iterations) in full, the answer of course was yes from all the panel. 

To finish the conference, Inspiring Norfolk an education project which celebrates living and learning in Norfolk shared a first viewing at their new video compilation which NGN’s Vice Chair Alison, noted ‘was like sitting down with a book of short stories about our wonderful county’.  

Missed the conference? The recordings and presentations will be available soon on NGN Conference 2021 – Norfolk Governance Network. If you are interested in joining the NGN committee, and helping us to run the business of NGN, please contact our clerk, Justine Petersen at office@ngn.org.uk  

Thank you and see you next year. 

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