Friday, March 15, 2013

On being a governor


Being a school governor, my ears pricked up on hearing that governance was in the news again recently. Ofsted head honcho Sir Michael Wilshaw complained, "In the worst cases, governors can be rather like the jury that was dismissed from a high-profile trial last week: ill-informed and not able to make good decisions." Nice. Thanks for that, Sir Michael. The Chief Inspector of Schools floated the idea that paying governors might be one way of raising standards of school governance, a suggestion rejected by the National Governors' Association. Professionalising governance may be more of a hindrance than a help. The fact that governors have nothing to lose financially and career-wise can give them the courage they need to hold senior leaders to account. Currently they don't have to worry that rocking the boat might deprive them of a nice little earner. 

But amateur doesn't have to mean amateurish. Most governors volunteer for the role to try and make a difference in the life of their local school and take governance seriously  Some have a background in education, others, like me, 'have-a-go parent govs', do not. When the latter is the case, newly appointed governors will find themseleves on a steep learning curve. They'll find themselves drowning in an Alphabetti Sphagetti of acronyms; CPD, ECM, TLR, SLT, BANG. I made the last one up. It means 'Baffled by Acronyms New Governor'. But slowly things begin to make sense and attending training courses helps to further clarify matters. The NGA's bi-monthly magazine,  Governing Matters, is always worth a read for those who wish to keep themselves abreast of developments in the world of governance. 

'May you live in interesting times' says the old Chinese curse. We've certainly had some 'interesting times' at the school since I jointed the governing body in January 2012. Not long after being appointed the head teacher announced he was taking early retirement, leading to the appointment of an interim head for the 2012/13 academic year. We've just appointed a new substantive head, due to start in September 2013. We also had to elect a new chair of governors as the previous one stood down. Then we were 'Ofsteaded' a few weeks ago, receiving a 'Requires Improvement' rating, but with some promising features of the school receiving welcome recognition. That leaves plenty of work for governors to do in the quest to drive forward school improvement. 

I'm involved in the Every Child Matters and Staffing committees. I was recently appointed chair of Staffing and have been thinking though how the committee can best help to promote excellence in leadership, teaching and learning. I found the NGA's document, Knowing your School: Governors and Staff Performance helpful in this respect. 

Being a pastor means that within certain constraints I have more flexibility with my time than many in full time work. I've found myself involved in all kinds of stuff; job  interviews, a variety of panels, the Ofsted inspection, and the headteacher appointment process. It has fallen to me to liaise between the school and church leaders in arranging Minister-led assemblies.

One of the most enjoyable things for me is the link with the BV (Beliefs and Values - RE in old money) Dept. As BV link gov I get to talk some serious theology with the BV staff, as well as find out how policies and initiatives are working out on the educational coalface. Sitting in on lessons is indispensable for getting a feel for school life. The ones I've observed were certainly more engaging than when I was in school. No copying out endless lines of text chalked on blackboards, or mind numbingly taking notes as dictated by the teacher these days. Thankfully. 

Being a governor is a challenging and rewarding task. Hands-on governance takes time and won't make you any richer, but there are rewards that can't be measured in pounds, shillings and pence. Playing a small part in helping to create a school where every child matters and all are able to achieve their full educational potential is one of them. 

No comments: