Inspectors have failed 500 schools in the past year because they are poorly run by their governing bodies, chief schools inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw has disclosed.
Failings include governors who try to alter the character of a school to fit in with their own ideology - as in the case of the Birmingham “Trojan Horse” schools where they tried to enforce a hard-line Islamist ethos - and boards that have agreed “wildly excessive” remuneration packages for headteachers.
Sir Michael, chief executive of education standards watchdog, wants ministers to consider paying heads of governing bodies and to insist that all governors should receive mandatory training.
He said the role of governors was far more important nowadays with free schools and academies running their own affairs.
Often, the worst examples of weak leadership are in “standalone” academies who do not have the support a multi-academy trust to help them run their schools.
“Amateurish governance will no longer do,” he said. “Good will and good intentions will only go so far”
Other failings included governors who lack enough professional knowledge to challenge headteachers or “lack curiosity and are too willing to accept what they are being told about pupils’ progress and the quality of teaching”. “As a consequence they often hold an overly optimistic view of how the school is performing,” he added.
Others devoted too much time to “marginal issues (like school uniform, dinner menu or the peeling paintwork in the main hall) instead of focussing on the core issues that really matter”, he said.
“Depressingly, we often find the weakest governance operating in the most challenging schools in the poorest areas of the country - the very schools that stand to gain most from strong, professional and forensic governance and are least able to muddle through when this is absent,” he added.
Sir Michael said he was now asking inspectors to focus on training arrangements for governors in their inspections and was also commissioning in-depth research into the effectiveness of school governing bodies.