Recruiting the right people
Some of the local governing bodies that I have known in the past always had members who were ‘time servers’. Many local authority governors were political appointments and, although they may have been councillors who lived close to the school, they often had very little to say that was of any interest. At one nearby school two of the local councillors were known affectionately as ‘Toilets’ and ‘Accidents’ because they had attached themselves to these two topics and always, at every full governors meeting, managed to ask questions about the state of the toilets and how many minor accidents there had been since the last meeting. It was if, and this may seem cruel, they had been ‘put out to grass’ and did not fully contribute within their roles.
Foundation governors, in schools affiliated with churches, are there to support and enhance the school’s links with local churches, and in my experience do this quietly, calmly and well and are always there to remind governors that many school issues have a religious dimension.
If there is one maxim that applies to the discussions and decisions that school governors take, it should be ‘Keep It Simple’. Parent governors should not be able to push the interests of their child over and above everything else. Similarly, community governors should be able to reflect the whole community and not their specific interests and prejudices. It is not easy, but it is important that all governors need to be successful at asking the right questions and taking those relatively simple decisions which help the school to run as effectively as possible.
This is really an illustration of the fact that it not simply a matter of finding people willing to be school governors, but about finding the right people. Many parents will know the school and know many of the teachers, but they won’t necessarily understand how the school actually works. However, like many other school governors, they can bring all kinds of different skills that may or may not be helpful. All school governors need to be able to tackle a complex and demanding role. Unfortunately they can lack the time, confidence and the necessary expertise for this.
Who makes the best governors?
Governors need to represent the wider school community and bring all kinds of different perspectives from ‘ordinary’ life. Whether they be LA, foundation, community, staff or parent governors, they will be most effective if they:
care about children
want children to enjoy school and to achieve the best they can are keen to put something back into the community
are eager to be part of a team with a common purpose and understand the importance of valuing different viewpoints and perspectives
understand the value of being effective and show this by taking relevant training and development opportunities
are willing to accept responsibility
are willing to be supportive when it is appropriate
are willing to ask challenging questions when necessary.
It is the last point that many governors find difficult because they will be asking questions about complex educational issues that they don’t necessarily know much about.
This article is part of a larger article entitled 'School Governors Help or Hindrance' written by a former Primary head teacher called Roger Smith. Full article can be found on teaching expertise website linked below.