A school is nothing without a good reputation

Thursday 27 April 2017

Warren Buffett, the US businessman and investor, once said: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” While he was referring to businesses, the principle applies to any organisation, including schools.

Other years’ great results count for little if grades slump in just one subject. But often this can be explained away – the teacher had been in poor health, or it was a rogue class of students that had always underperformed.

Most independent schools, however, have very successful academic records and – no doubt – if a “rogue” class existed, efforts would be made to split up pupils (or dismiss them) if the overall effect on a cohort of pupils was a negative one.

But a good academic reputation is only one of several elements that affects opinion on the effectiveness of a school. Another is governance.

Overall, I think that governance in the independent sector is good, certainly better than in most schools in the state sector. But when parents are spending their hard-earned money on fees at your school, they don't just expect good governance, they demand it.

The way to ensure that good governance is the bare minimum at your school is through regular training, by engaging governors in (potentially) real-life scenarios to work through the knowledge they have to reach the ideal solution. And, where the governors are found wanting, to provide additional training and support for them. Scenarios, in effect, provide audits of their collective knowledge and understanding of the issues that your school could face. If they perform badly in a classroom setting, then they are more than likely to fail when a situation of this type actually arises.

And, if that happens, your hard-won reputation risks being lost.