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Brave Governance

The man who brought you Brave Heads now turns his eyes on school governance with wisdom for governors everywhere

I have been working with governors across the UK to investigate how they can help produce schools that truly prepare young people for the demands of the next 50 years.

In the process, I have met many amazing people who are willingly giving their free time with the sole desire of wanting to support their local school.

Many of them confess a frustration with the accepted ways of governance and are seeking to help their schools become truly responsive to the needs of the community they serve.

To help, I have been developing the concept of Brave Governance to support these ‘warriors of change’ (see what happens when you call your governors by that title!).

In its simplest form, Brave Governance can be outlined in the following 13 points:

  1. Make sure the school leaders are focused on the pupils and not just on keeping governors happy.
  2. Make sure meetings are not just an opportunity for governors to show how ‘clever they can be’ (hours of meetings are wasted with some governors thinking that their job is to ask pointlessly difficult questions).
  3. Don’t believe the lie that the only important measure for a school is exam/test results. Even Ofsted are starting to move away from that now, finally!
  4. Be proactive with parents/carers, making sure it’s the school’s vision of great schooling that they understand (rather than a media-fuelled vision of ‘the way it used to be’).
  5. Ensure governors prioritise meeting time to clarify, endorse and amend the vision of the school — THIS is the most important thing they can do!
  6. Don’t pretend to be an inspector when carrying out visits to the school. Instead, focus on the important things — the ethos, the vision and the levels of trust.
  7. Make sure, when holding the headteacher to account, they insist on the head regularly spending some time out of the school building.
  8. Don’t say ‘We want our leader to be a risk taker’ and then instantly criticise them when a mistake is made.
  9. Make sure that the finance committee considers pupil and staff welfare when ‘balancing the books’.
  10. Meet every member of staff as often as possible — and listen to their views.
  11. Have a picture of the youngest and oldest pupil at every meeting and remind everyone that they are the ‘bosses’.
  12. Never accept anything other than an unconditionally positive attitude from fellow governors.
  13. Realise and remember that the headteacher doesn’t need a ‘critical friend’ — he or she need a true one.

We are at a critical time for education with all that is going on in the world.

All of which means we need governors to rise to the challenge with creativity, positivity and yes, bravery.

To find out more about booking Dave Harris for your school, college or organisation call us on 01267 211432 or drop us an email on

About the author

Dave Harris

Dave is an experienced school leader with a unique international grasp of what makes schools tick. He is the author of Brave Heads, Independent Thinking on Transition and the Leadership Dialogues series with the late Professor John West Burnham.

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