Resetting Conference 2020 Conference look back

Norfolk Governance Network’s first virtual conference held on 10th October was as one delegate noted “really useful and very uplifting” the uplifting part, perhaps needs some explaining. 

The theme was Resetting Governance, vital for this unsettling time. The conference brought governors, trustees and clerks from all parts of Norfolk together for a common agenda, to pause, reset and move forward positively for the children and young people in our county. 

NGN’s Chair, Anne Gibson welcomed Keynote Speakers, Paul Brooker, East of England Director for Ofsted and Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s Director of Public Health. They were joined by Chris Snudden, Director of Learning & Inclusion for the many governor questions.

Paul Brooker’s timely talk about Ofsted visits and reset inspection plans was considered reassuring and an important insight for governors. It was also very good to hear the questions from governors who were concerned about Headteacher wellbeing, particularly at this time, this was echoed by Paul.

As with previous face to face conferences, a choice of breakout sessions was offered, a Norfolk Area SEND session led by Chris Snudden provided governors with an update on the ongoing work for children and young people with SEND in Norfolk. Finance and the current challenges was the topic of a popular session led by Sarah Shirras, Chair of the School Forum. Our National Governance Association colleagues Steve Edmunds, Director of Advice and Guidance and Rani Kaur, Head of Advice spoke about the importance of Professional Clerking. The final session covered the development of Digital School Health Profiles for Norfolk led by Fay Spencer from Cambridgeshire Community Services NHS Trust. 

Following an interactive governance discussion, Dr Louise Smith delivered a strong talk about Covid-19, about the virus, why social distancing is important and the response from Norfolk Public Health. Key for governors was the impact on our schools and how this affects children and young people. Following several months of debate, Louise spoke about why schools needed to stay open and the importance of robust risk assessments. An important takeaway for governors was the need to ensure that staff interactions were considered carefully in the risk assessments to reduce any potential staff to staff Covid-19 transmission. 

The event finished with Norfolk Governance Network’s AGM, Anne Gibson spoke about the challenges of this year, the results from the recent governor survey which related to NGN and the work carried out this year by those on the NGN committee. Anne shared “As the coronavirus outbreak continues to present unprecedented challenges for us all, across all aspects of our lives, thank you to all school governors and trustees for your continuing support of our education system in Norfolk, over the last few months when education establishments have been under immense pressure.” There was also a request for new members of the county committee, head to the NGN website to get in touch –  Finally, as the early feedback received was so positive about the format of the conference, NGN will be offering future virtual governor briefing events. You can connect with NGN via Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook @NGNORGUK. 

NGN are adding the Conference presentations and video to their website so for governors who could not make it, or who wished to see one of the other sessions, this will be made available shortly.

Thank you to all speakers, delegates, Norfolk County Council, our colleagues at Educator Solutions, Educate Norfolk and the Diocese of Norwich, our technical support team and to the NGN committee team. As to the reason the event was uplifting, Dr Louise Smith spoke about “our collective effort” and that message came across loud and clear from the conference, governors and trustees across Norfolk working together with all in Education and Governor Services and with the leadership teams within their schools, to not only reset governance but to strengthen it and deliver on our core governance roles. 

Resetting Governance part two

Resetting Governance

We look forward to welcoming you to our 2020 conference and AGM, we have brought together key messages to help guide us through this tumultuous time. Dr Louise Smith, Norfolk’s Director of Public Health and Chris Butwright, Assistant Director of Prevention and Policy in Public Health will speak of the impact of Covid-19 and local outbreaks on our schools and communities. A key point to look out for is the importance of the risk assessments we know so well and the protective measures we have in place . Of course, there are other health concerns outside of Covid and these will be explored too, particularly the impact on children and their wellbeing.

Governance over the next few months will be of vital importance to those in our schools. As we enter 2021, external scrutiny is expected to return with Ofsted resuming their Inspections. Paul Brooker, Ofsted’s East of England Director joins us to perhaps dispel some myths and share the current situation with inspections and what is likely to happen as we move through and out of recovery. As governors we never shy away from scrutiny or challenge and in our resetting theme, many of us will certainly be pausing, taking a deep breath and getting the work done. This comes back to the fact that if we connect with other governors, we can share good practise, research and find support.

The practicalities of organising a Virtual Conference have been an interesting learning curve, thankfully we have professionals to minimise the glitches and to make sure you all can feel connected to each other, the speakers and can take part in our ever popular breakout sessions, Zoom style. This year we bring you the current challenges and future planning in finance presented by Sarah Shirras, co-chair of EducateNorfolk. We are joined by our national colleagues in NGA to talk about the importance of professional clerking to support robust governance. Have you heard of Digital School Health Profiles? Context is always important in governance, you will have an early look at the work of Public Health to provide some key information to support children in our schools. Earlier this year, before lockdown, Norfolk had a Local Area SEND Inspection by Ofsted and Care Quality Commission, you will hear an update on the Inspection findings and the work being carried out for children and young people with SEND in Norfolk.

Norfolk Governance Network will be with you throughout the conference, you will find us in the breakout sessions and our Chair Anne Gibson will formally welcome you to the conference. We will be running a questions and answer session after all the sessions, so please let us know in chat if there is anything you wish to raise. You are also welcome to join our AGM at the end of the conference. We are all working governors or trustees in Norfolk and we are always on the lookout for more governors and trustees to join the NGN team and help steer our work. Please do consider this and contact us if you would like to know more.

A final word…

If you are new to Zoom and have any worries, feel free to get in touch, most of us have been there and as one of the Vice-Chairs, prior to this year I have probably only been in a couple of online meetings. I have now been in more than I can count.

Resetting Governance for me is a way of rethinking governance, kindness is ever important, particularly in these fragile times. However, Resetting Governance is also about self reflection, accepting help, speaking up and against the odds looking forward once again while holding onto what is important.

Thank you from one governor to many.



Resetting Governance part one


The enormity of the events that 2020 has presented us, is almost impossible to quantify. However, school governance has always been steeped in challenges, social issues, financial restrictions, workload and wellbeing, governor recruitment and succession planning in an ever-changing educational landscape. It isn’t a surprise therefore that governors and trustees have stepped up and emerged into a new version of their governance roles.

Covid-19 has affected every aspect of our lives, changing how we live, breathe, work, shop and socialise both with family and friends. It has affected the lives of the children and young people in our nurseries, schools, alternative provision and colleges in ways that are still yet to be fully understood. We are all in recovery while still mid-event.

Our school leaders are stretched beyond what is healthy, our school communities are looking ever harder at each school to ensure they are safeguarding their children while not over-reacting either. Within this careful balancing act, governors stand to support and provide a calm space for their Headteachers to lean into. Although the situation with Covid-19 has certainly provided many distinct challenges, as governors we already know safeguarding, we understand the importance of health and safety in our risk assessments and policy compliance. We highly value those in our schools and already consider their wellbeing and workload. So, we are already highly equipped with the skills to support our schools through this time. However, more than ever before, we cannot do this alone, the ask is too great, even for the most experienced governor. We need to support each other as governors and that is what NGN is all about.

For us all, at Norfolk Governance Network it has been equally challenging in our respective schools. Where we represent governors at the county level, these meetings have also moved to virtual, the work continues because the need continues. It has been highly reassuring to see the resilience and flexibility in this new approach by all agencies. The huge wealth of online governance courses and webinars has also been very reassuring and useful. There has certainly been a steep learning curve as there has been for many boards across the county, however, governance at all levels has continued and this should be applauded.

Feeling Valued, Staying Connected

Norfolk Governance Network Autumn Conference 2019 - Mark Deveney - De-mystifying Mental Health
Mark Deveney at our 2019 conference

Each autumn, NGN hosts a conference. In 2019 our theme was Feeling Valued, Staying Connected…. we had no idea then what we would be facing in 2020 but the theme underlies the work of NGN and of governance. We value the vital role of good governance and of each governor and trustee and the positive impact we can make for our leaders, staff, children and communities. Staying connected at all levels can be more of a challenge, particularly over the last six months. This is a key aim for NGN and we look forward to connecting with as many of you as possible. This also helps us to ensure that our representation meets your needs, context and visions so that we can all work together for the children in Norfolk.

Earlier this summer it soon became clear that we would not be able to meet in person at our planned autumn conference. From our own governor networks we realised that the need to get together was more important than ever. So, for 2020 we are holding our first virtual conference, welcome to Resetting Governance.

What will happen to my school budget?

The financial year starting on 1 April 2019 will see a number of changes:

  • Norfolk schools will be moving to the National Funding Formula which will reduce the budgets of some primary schools. There will be some protection from the Minimum Funding Guarantee
  • Norfolk County Council is applying to the Secretary of State to move £4.58mn from the Schools Block (maintained schools and academies) to the High needs Block  (special schools and alternative provision). If this is agreed there will be less money for schools budgets.
    The Secretary of State may not decide until February so final budgets for schools may not be available before the deadline of 28 February 2019.
    Schools can get some idea of the impact if they look at the Funding Consultation – Option 1A shows the impact of the full transfer to the High Needs Block.

    That is the income side but schools should also be aware of expenditure pressures:

  • Teachers Pay Award – the government is funding the amounts above the 1% increase but not by matching the actual increase in pay costs as the Grant is paid according to pupil numbers. Also , the Teachers’ Pay Grant is only guaranteed until 1 April 2020.
  • Support Staff Pay Scales (Green Book) – new scales based on the National Living Wage come in from 1 April 2019. There is no compensating increase in funding.
  • Teachers’ pensions contributions with rise from 16.5% to 24.6% from 1 September 2019. The government says is will provide additional funding but no details are yet available and this compensation may also be time limited to 1 April 2020.

Budget setting will be a challenge this year.