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Joan sallis answers your questions

You often paint pictures of the ideal governing body as a united team with common goals and a strong degree of trust in each other. This is a tall order for me when each September brings me 50 per cent of new governors, many of them strangers.

It is a tall order, but what you should be asking me instead is why you get a 50 per cent turnover. Unless your school has an itinerant population this is quite exceptional, and you should be looking hard at the reasons.

The most obvious comment is that governing bodies should be looking at recruitment needs all the time. Then at least you could greatly reduce the number of strangers, since you would have between you identified a number of people known to you whom you could invite to stand for co-option, or offer themselves as parent- governors if they have children at the school.

You would also be proposing to your local authority (or foundation if it is a voluntary-aided school) suitable people whom they might appoint to represent them. Be ready to put recruits in touch with an enthusiastic governor or to invite them to a trial meeting as observers.

This would be tackling one cause of rapid turnover, namely governors who were unsuitable in the first place, either because they didn't have the time or because they lacked the necessary interest and commitment.

The next thing to tackle is the messages which you have given about the job, since the second most common reason for leaving is that governors were misled about the degree of commitment needed and are not prepared to put in the effort.

Make sure you say (a) ordinary people can do it but (b) it requires a willingness to learn and work hard and give up a lot of time and (c) it is interesting, worth while, and develops you as a person.

The third reason for high turnover can be the governing body you have. It's no good inviting possible recruits to come and listen to what you say if what you say is not interesting and relevant.

On the other hand a governing body which is genuinely doing its job and doing it visibly - using every occasion and form of communication to show its work to parents especially - is the best possible recruiting aid. Ask yourself a lot of fundamental questions about how real your governors' involvement in the school and its decisions and policies is and answer them honestly.

Watch, finally, how you welcome and involve new governors. Most of us are very bad at welcoming new recruits, and if we could see a video of ourselves not doing it we would be ashamed.

There is a new Action for Governors' Information and Training publication, Finding and Keeping Governors which would help you. It is an attractive six- page leaflet on recruitment, induction and retention. AGIT are selling packs of 15 for your governing body at Pounds 15 from AGIT, Lyng Hall, Blackberry Lane, Coventry, CV2 3JS.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171 782 3200.


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