A Focus on Effective School Boards

POSTED: January 29, 2021Category: AISA ArticlesBY: AISA P9

By Graham Watts, Deputy Executive Director, Association of International Schools in Africa

With the demands on schools and school leaders greater than ever, an effective school board is vital.  In this edition of ConneXions, we focus on the characteristics of effective school boards.

A simple list is not sufficient as the reality of school governance is complex and nuanced.  What do you expect to observe in a highly effective school board?

We know that positive relationships between board members and school leaders are based on trust, openness and transparency. Effective school boards systematically monitor their school’s progress towards goals and the information about what is going well and why, and what is not going well and why, is shared and analysed. This analysis sees board members seek more information, explanation or clarification as this process makes a strong contribution to robust planning for improvement.

Board members are well informed and knowledgeable because they are given high-quality, accurate information that is concise and focused on learning. Highly effective governance supports honest, insightful self-evaluation by the school, recognising problems and supporting the steps needed to address them. Board members behave with integrity and are mutually supportive and school leaders recognise that the board provides them with different perspectives which contribute to strengthening leadership. The questions they ask challenge assumptions, support effective decision-making and hold leaders to account.

Effective school boards have systems for sharing information and reporting back to stakeholders and the wider school community. These systems include two-way communication to ensure everyone in the school family has a voice and diverse perspectives are heard as the heart of school governance.

With the regular turn-over of board members in international schools, effective boards have induction processes for new members that help them understand their roles and responsibilities and ensure that best use is made of their varied skills and expertise. Effective school boards reflect on their effectiveness and readily make changes to improve. They consider their own learning needs, as well as how they organise their work.  Time is used efficiently by board members because there are clear procedures for delegating tasks, for example, to well-organised committees. These committees have clear terms of reference, provide high levels of challenge and use members’ expertise to best effect.

There are other equally salient characteristics of an effective school board and its members.  An invaluable resource that is designed with AISA schools in mind is our Code of Governance.

Don’t miss out on AISA’s Governance Learning online series taking place this semester. Registration is free to our members and designed specifically with AISA schools in mind. Groups, rather than an individual from a school, are encouraged to register.

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