Wednesday, 12 October 2011

National College: Relationship with the headteacher Case Study

Sarah Adkins, an environmental and planning lawyer, has been chair of governors for Bishop
Cornish Primary School, a Church of England voluntary aided primary school in Saltash,
Cornwall, for three years. The headteacher is Jenny Thomas.

Sarah says: “I have a very strong relationship with Jenny, built on trust, respect and shared values. From the beginning, we have shared the same vision for the school: to value and educate every child. It may sound obvious but it manifests itself in every aspect of our work. We start all decision processes by considering what is best for the children.

“We meet at least weekly to go through our respective actions and discuss school life. Jenny will also call me if she wants my opinion. We ask each other’s views all the time – it is absolutely a relationship of equals, even though we are in different roles.

“It helps that we have complementary skills. My commercial and legal knowhow helps with strategies and evaluating evidence. Jenny is great at getting people on board and generally making things happen. For example, very early in my role as chair, we worked with the governing body to commit £100,000 (six years’devolved capital with a loan) to a new
eco-education centre. A VAT complication meant we might not immediately have enough money to fit it out but we felt the building was too important to the children’s future not to proceed. We worked together to make the educational and the business case to the governing body and the project went ahead. The centre is now being very well used.

“The chair of governors must be capable of independent thought; decisions must not be made just to please other people, even the headteacher! You need to be objective while caring deeply, to be trustworthy and to maintain confidentiality.

You need to remember that it is the governing body that makes the decisions and that it is your job to help it come to the best possible outcome.

“You could say that we balance each other but I don’t see my role as being on the opposite side of a divide to the headteacher. I see us as part of the same team, with our own functions. Our
relationship is critical for school excellence. Working together we will be vastly stronger and the whole school will benefit.”

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