Monday, 7 February 2011

Head teacher view on School Governors & Homework

View from a head teacher

It’s ten o’clock on a cold winter’s evening and a school governors’ meeting is in full swing. The agenda has been long and the debates have seemed even longer because some of the school governors have been too busy to read the pre-meeting paperwork, which you, of course, weren’t too busy to prepare for them! You are tired and have a difficult parent to see in the morning. The final points are being made in agreement with your school improvement agenda item on developing better teaching and classroom management. Then one of the school governors who hasn’t really been following the debate casually mentions the dreaded topic of homework.

The knee-jerk reactions

Suddenly, it is as if spotlights are pointing your way. The parent governors all have loud and different views about homework in general but now start making wild statements about individual teachers not giving enough, giving too much, not making it hard enough, not marking it often enough, not being consistent, etc. A skilful chair of governors will be able to draw the meeting to a relatively swift conclusion but, and you can take bets on this, one of the parent governors will make sure that homework will be on the agenda of subsequent meetings.

As you drive home, you begin to feel that you have been ambushed and all the productive and successful parts of the meeting pale into insignificance against the need to think carefully about what the parent governors said about homework.

Maybe you are being paranoid, but as they say: ‘Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean that they aren’t out to get you!’ Perhaps homework (and it could have been all kinds of other issues) is something that you should be looking at now. Or perhaps it isn’t. Whether you stay focused and put it on the back burner, reminding school that it isn’t part of the improvement plan, or recognise that changes need to be made, it is an example of a school governors’ meeting creating a spasm of indecision and generating more work for you and your staff. At the very least it is sowing a seed of doubt in your head. We need to remain strong and focused and not be sidetracked. We need to be assertive in these kinds of situations and think carefully whether such a meeting actually helps to raise standards or benefits children in any way.

You might think that I am exaggerating or describing a fairly irrelevant anecdote. But it actually happened to a colleague of mine who drove home that evening and, rightly or wrongly, embarked on a lengthy consultation process about homework. The process eventually fizzled out because a consensus could not be reached and possibly lack of interest. What was significant about the incident was that time and effort was wasted on something that appeared important but was actually not at all.

This article is part of a larger article entitled 'School Governors Help or Hindrance' written by a former Primary head teacher called Roger Smith. The full article can be found on the teaching expertise website linked below.

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