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Agenda

Joan sallis answers your questions.

We have two vacancies for parent governors and will be having elections in autumn term. In the past there has not been a great deal of interest, and we wonder whether you have any advice on how to make this a more successful event.

Mostly the formal statement which goes out announcing a vacancy and describing the election process has as much appeal as a communication about income tax.

You can instead include a friendly letter from all the parent governors - outgoing and others - saying how important it is that the voice of ordinary parents should be heard in important decisions which governors make. You can say that it is not a job requiring any special qualifications other than interest, a willingness to learn and a commitment to the education of the children in the school, and that it is absorbing and worthwhile.

Better still, parent governors could offer to talk any interested parents about what is involved.This will be better than a cold formal notification. But the process of recruitment should really be an on-going preoccupation with governors, not something they think about when it is imminent.

The most important recruiting agency, as I must have said a hundred times, is an existing governing body whose work is real, relevant and visible in the school.

It should be a body people know about and are motivated to join. If it does not have that feel about it, improving the process may only make a marginal difference.

People are quick to pick up any suggestion that the governing body is a formality and that it doesn't have any real say. But sometimes they don't get any messages because governors don't think it necessary to communicate with parents in general about what is going on.

It is also important that the school includes parents in its thinking and makes them feel that their opinions and support are needed - which is very much more than making them feel welcome.

Governors' reports to parents can be more friendly and communicative than most are, giving a real insight into governors' work and inviting thoughts on matters not yet cut and dried.

Finally, there is no reason why a governing body should not invite parents who might be interested in becoming governors to come and observe a meeting or two or even join a working party. I know one school where parents come to observe regularly, a few at a time, solely for the purpose of identifying some who might be likely recruits.

Questions to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3200; e-mail: Letters@tes1.demon.co.uk

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