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Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q

I am a very active parent, busy in the Friends Association, but I don't know whether I'm the type to get involved in high-level and perhaps controversial matters. I do care a lot about the school's good name and am prepared to work hard to be better informed and give my time to the job. But I have the impression that the head is a bit touchy about governors' "interference" and I don't think they have an easy time. I'm not sure I'm cut out for a fighting role and wonder whether someone like me could do as much for the school as a governor as I can in ordinary supportive activities.

A

Only a week or so ago I was bemoaning in this column the fact that many heads see two types of parents - the "good sorts" in parents' organisations and the "stirrers" on the governing body - even when they are clearly the same people. Where this perception exists it reflects defensiveness and even insecurity about the governors' role. While it is natural for you to be afraid of giving up your known usefulness as a good school parent for the unknown trials of a governor, the fact that you know there may be problems gives you a good start.

We have to blow away the "two sorts of parents" nonsense. Schools need people like you, speaking for people like themselves, to get deeper into their affairs. You clearly have the practical life skills, the willingness to learn and give time to it, you care about the school but still see it with a critical eye, and if you accept that you may have to become tougher you also have the realism to be a success as a governor.

Remember that it is a representative role and you will speak for many just like yourself. Remember too that you will never have to make any decision alone or without expert advice.

You may be the governor who one day is going to say to the head: "Look, I am still the person you knew. Only the role has changed. In challenging me you are showing only that you haven't accepted the role." Try to talk to the governor you will be replacing about the task and the issues that are in the air, and give some thought to how you would handle them.

Joan Sallis's book, Governors Are People Like You, answers many of the questions asked by those uncertain about standing as governors. It is published by ACE, 18 Aberdeen Studios, 22-6 Highbury Grove, London N5 2DQ

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