Press release

Teach First and the Wellcome Trust partner to improve school governance

Teach First and the Wellcome Trust, two charitable organisations with a shared interest in education, have announced plans to help improve the quality of school governance as part of their commitment to the field.

With the support of a Strategic Award from the Wellcome Trust, Teach First will design, pilot and evaluate a programme to train new school governors to overcome educational disadvantage in schools in low-income communities using the Trust's Recommended Code of School Governance.

Teach First has already supported more than 100 ambassadors (alumni of the leadership development programme in primary and secondary schools) to become school governors across the UK. As head teachers have recognised the value of these ambassadors within the governing body, Teach First will draw on its experience of developing inspirational, effective leadership programmes to create a new governor programme to develop 'Governor Impact Groups'.

Teach First will also be working in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, the School Governors' One-Stop Shop, the National Governors Association, ambassador governors and leadership development experts.

Over five years, the programme will train 50 governors, made up of pairings of Teach First ambassadors and non-ambassador governors, in 25 low-income schools. From this process, a template for high-quality governor training will be developed to create a community of motivated governors that are able to offer guidance and share their expertise.

As part of their training, each pair of governors will identify a development challenge to improve an aspect of their school, including challenges within subjects like science and mathematics. After initial discussion with their governing body, they will then receive an intensive programme of training and support over a two-year period, which will involve residential workshops, coaching and input from experts already working in these fields.

The programme aims to improve the achievement and aspirations of pupils, as well as their access to higher education. To further address the challenges faced, the impact groups will use feedback from the Wellcome Trust's Recommended Code of School Governance, which is currently being piloted in 21 schools over a period of two years.

The Trust's programme of activity also includes groundwork for improving governors' access to and understanding of data to better hold their schools to account.

Carmel Greene, an existing Teach First ambassador and school governor, said: "Governors are increasingly taking on an important role and becoming more 'visible' in schools, so the idea of the impact groups is a fantastic one and something that is grounded in reality. The context is well understood, too, and that's clear in the way the programme has been planned out and organised."

Clare Matterson, Director of Medical Humanities and Engagement at the Wellcome Trust, said: "The Wellcome Trust has a strong interest in improving the quality of education, particularly in science and maths.

"There are many ways that effective school governance can influence the quality of these subjects, by securing high-quality practical work, ensuring teachers’ access to continuous professional development, encouraging opportunities for enrichment outside the classroom, as well as improving science and maths-related careers advice. We know that good education is impossible without good governance, and we look forward to seeing the effect that the Teach First Governor Impact Groups will have on education in general, and science education in particular, in the pilot schools."

Ofsted inspection evidence suggests there is a correlation between effective school governance, the quality of leadership and management, and the quality of teaching and pupils' achievement. Last year Ofsted increased its focus on governance and leadership as part of its regulatory duties, and under the new Ofsted framework, schools will not be able to gain 'outstanding' for Leadership and Management unless their governing bodies are also rated as 'outstanding'.

In the 2010 report of Sir Mark Walport's Science and Learning Expert Group, school governance was also identified as an essential prerequisite for improving science and mathematics education.