An IEB in Cambridgeshire

Liz Gibson, National Leader of Governance, describes the support provided on an IEB (Interim Executive Board)

A local primary school was in put into special measures in September 2015.  As a C of E primary school, it was also instructed to convert to an academy, the sponsor being the diocese multi academy trust.

In early 2016, it was decided by the LA that the governing body did not have the expertise and was not able to execute the level of improvement needed by the school and so an IEB was put in place which I was asked to Chair.

An IEB (Interim Executive Board) replaces a Governing Body and can be put in place for a variety of reasons.  It takes on all the functions and responsibilities of a Governing Body, always keeping a clear focus on rapid school improvement and dealing with the issues that lead to the IEB being formed.  As its name suggests, it is always meant to be a temporary measure and most IEB’s are in place for less than a year after which the school returns to the responsibility of an appointed Governing Body.

Due to the situation the school was in and the transition between the temporary headship arrangements that had been brokered when the school went into a category (and which could not continue due to the school not converting when expected), it was essential that the IEB hit the ground running and secured immediate change.

We quickly had to work together to agree priorities and we decided to assign one member of the IEB to each of the identified Ofsted findings, plus covering the financial situation that the school was in.   The added complexity was the conversion to Academy which ended up not being straightforward and the original conversion date (1 May) ended up being 1 November.  Luckily the IEB was able to stay in place for the longer period.

A new interim head teacher was appointed who was an experienced Deputy and who we also had to support in her new role.  To add to the mix, all the permanent teaching staff resigned just before Easter to move to other positions so we (and the new interim head teacher) had a whole teaching staff to recruit before the new academic year to a very small, rural school in Special Measures!

After a few deep breaths, we set about with our plans – we had formal monthly meetings as an IEB in order to keep track of both school improvement and also the academisation process.  We had no previous data or governance information to work with and so we effectively had to start from scratch.  We also had a challenge to get parents on side and to implement significant changes to the school structure and finances due to the number of children (and the roll dropping further) and the deficit position the school had been left in.  We were very lucky in that the associate advisor appointed by the LA was also excellent and we worked very collaboratively to make sure that everything was on track.  The LA also provided a lot of support to teaching and learning. Some of the things we achieved were:

  • Robust and clear monitoring schedule
  • Constant review of pupil progress and school development plan
  • Improved outcome for children and robust plans to continue this improvement
  • Audit and review of safeguarding including follow-up monitoring and action plan
  • Review of pupil premium funding and impact (this had not been done previously so we were not able to confidentially asses where money had been spent)
  • Reduction in classes from four to three and fully staffed from September 2016
  • Balanced budget for 2016/2017
  • Improved communication with parents and carers
  • Resolution of several complex employee relations issues
  • Challenge to both LA and DEMAT regarding academisation and future sustainability of the school

Then there were all the other ‘minor’ things that come with running a school and which I won’t cover here.  The expertise, independence and skill set of the other IEB members was essential to achieving what we did and I am confident that we handed over a school in a much better position to the one we took on, albeit still with some challenges to face.

What did we learn for the future?

  • Converting to academy always takes longer than anyone tells you!
  • The time commitment as a Chair of an IEB is massive and you have to be a strong leader
  • You’re in place due to a number of challenging issues so expect to have to hit the ground running and make a difference very quickly
  • Make sure that there are clear expectations of the LA and the Sponsor and that you hold them to account
  • Keep a list of the impact the actions of the IEB are making – this is useful for Ofsted
  • Try to ensure the academy sponsor has plans for a local governing body – plan for a proper handover and (if needed and agreed to) some on-going support
  • Retain a sense of humour and perspective at all times
  • When negotiating multiple difficult situations and the inevitable politics, remember that the children are and should be at the heart of why you are doing this.