Good Things Come In Threes

Future Council – Our Plan 1

Who’d Be A Governor? That’d Be You Then!
Education changes lives.

Consequently, the City Council is working closely with its schools and, in particular, the Birmingham Education Partnership, to promote a clear and ambitious vision for education in the city. Our shared ambition is to ensure that, no later than from 2018, all schools are at least good and, preferably outstanding. To be successful we know that schools need an unwavering commitment to high achievement for all children and young people, strong strategic leadership, sound financial management, the very best learning and teaching policies, rigorous HR processes and, above all, excellent governance.

It is widely recognised that school governors are the most important volunteer workforce in the education system, and that every school benefits from a skilled team of governors who can provide effective and appropriate support and challenge to the school’s employed professional leadership. That is why I am personally encouraging colleagues across the City Council to share in this responsibility to support our schools by becoming a governor, offering their enthusiasm, expertise and experience at a time when raising standards has never been so important. To find out more about the requirements of the role, the time commitment, support available and how to apply visit: www.birmingham.gov.uk/school-governors

I am also giving my backing to the recruitment of City Council colleagues to serve on Interim Executive Boards (IEB), temporary bodies that are established to accelerate the improvement of standards and attainment at schools that have been identified as failing to provide a good quality of education, as evidenced by Ofsted judgements, assessment results or other indicators.

In such circumstances an IEB replaces the school’s governing body and provides executive leadership to ensure school improvement through the successful implementation of the Local Authority Statement of Action and, in all likelihood, to lead the school through conversion to Academy status. Like school governors, IEB members give strategic direction, hold the Headteacher/Principal to account for educational performance. They also manage the school’s financial resources. As with governing bodies, IEBs benefit from skills and expertise drawn from outside of an educational setting.

To find out more and to apply to become a member of an IEB in Birmingham contact our Governor Recruitment Officer, Alison Hicks, by emailing governors@birmingham.gov.uk

Our Schools Need You!

Future Council – Our Plan 2

Magna Carta: The Sequel

As I said in last week’s blog (16 February), it is now time to develop our own City Council-led narrative for change and to persuade, mobilise and engage the whole city in supporting us to take forward our improvement.

We cannot achieve lasting change for the better simply by following instructions from inspectors, reviewers and commissioners, however valuable they are. The future of Birmingham must be made in Birmingham, and the future of Birmingham City Council must be owned by all its councillors, its staff and the people we are here to serve. This is something that the Improvement Panel is very clear about. They want to support us in developing our own narrative of change.

Above all, it is down to us to change our own behaviour and live by the values we want the City Council to stand for in the future.

But none of that means for a second that we should disengage from the national agenda. We need to spend more time, not less, learning from what other councils do. My role as President of SOLACE is immensely valuable to me, not least because it reminds me that Birmingham, special as it is, is not unique and faces the same challenges as many other places.

Neither should we stop lobbying hard for changes in national policy that this city needs. The people of Birmingham should expect their City Council to stand up for their interests and this is a vital part of our local democracy. And this General Election year is a crucial time for that lobbying.

What has become apparent through the devolution debate is that we live in one of the most centralised democracies in the world (allegedly second only to Albania!) and that means a vast amount of what we do and how we do it is effectively decided in Westminster and Whitehall. For example, over two thirds of our income comes from central government and, as they say, “s/he who pays the piper calls the tune”.

If we want to realise in full all our ambitions for this great city we need to secure the powers, the funding and the freedoms to make our own choices and deliver our own plans.

Of course, we recognise that if government is to listen then we must improve our own internal functioning, as well as strengthening governance arrangements between those councils for whom collaboration will maximise the benefits for local people. In particular, this means continuing the work to put in place a Combined Authority to steer decisions at the city region level about the economy and public service reform. Work is now well in hand to take this forward faster during 2015.

In parallel, working in partnership with the other Core Cities (Bristol, Cardiff, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Glasgow and Edinburgh), we have been pushing hard for the devolution of greater powers and freedoms so that we can do our job better.

That brings me to my title – and the bit where you can play your part. A couple of weeks ago in Glasgow, the Core Cities’ leaders and mayors signed a New Charter for Local Freedom, to mark the 800th Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. The original document was about limiting the powers of the King and establishing rights such as a fair trial for the first time. It later inspired the development of our Parliament and the United States Declaration of Independence.

This modern local government version calls for the devolution of (principally economic growth-related) powers and finances to councils and, as a corollary, for these councils to commit to radical public service reforms. If this New Charter was implemented by the next government it would radically alter, for the better, the shape of our Future Council programme.

I have already added my name to the Charter and now you can too. I would urge everyone who wants to see a better future for our cities and for local government to sign up to the Charter. You can do so here.

And please ask everyone who believes in the future of Birmingham to sign up as well.

#SU4BRUM

It’s a little over a year since Standing Up For Birmingham was launched. Much has happened since November 2013 and you can familiarise yourself by visiting www.standingupforbirmingham.wordpress.com

This campaign is going to gain greater significance as we shape and then implement the Future Council programme – and I sincerely hope that you’ll make your contribution both at the design stage, as well as in delivering on our agreed commitments.

To help you as you think about how to make a difference, I have set out below the purpose of the campaign:

“Standing Up For Birmingham is about the people of the city being encouraged, aided and abetted to collaborate and come up with innovative new ways of working together to the advantage of their neighbourhoods.

“#SU4Brum also recognises and celebrates the great work that communities have already done, using their successes to motivate more individuals and groups to come forward and make a distinctive difference by designing and implementing their own initiatives.

“In all this, the City Council is learning how best to perform an enabling role, one that helps to grow and value this active citizenship.”

Standing Up For Birmingham isn’t just a rallying call, let alone simply a soundbite. It is a serious and sustained commitment to shifting the balance of power in favour of local people and local decision-making. Or, in my preferred jargon, moving from hierarchical power to networked influenced.

And it is not just the domain of a few citizens and officers. When we get our head round exactly what we consider this element of the Future Council programme should needs to look like, then #SU4Brum will be everyone’s business. The changing shape of the council demands this (fewer priorities to be delivered with less cash), but the needs and demands of our citizens demand this more.

And, as we have agreed, our job is to make a positive difference everyday to people’s lives – so this campaign is most definitely our business.

So, a hat trick for you this week.

Cheers,

Mark

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Posted on February 23, 2015, in Blog, Future Council. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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