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Balance to tread on the board

Seven voluntary governance roles combined with work as an independent governor-trainer and external adviser have made me acutely aware of the difficulties governors face in finding time to do their jobs well.

Is governance "work" or "life"? We need mutual agreement that it is not only the head and staff who need an acceptable work-life balance. When did your school last discuss this?

Being a good governor often requires family commitment. Tolerance over absence from home and a need to share care mean that partners, offspring and relatives invariably play a supporting role. Do they realise what influence a good governing body can have and why you are involved? Clearer understanding can encourage even more support.

The attitude of the head and chair of governors is crucial in time issues. Flexible meeting timesdates; constantly exploring new ways of working; reviewing responsibilities to ensure best use of governor expertiseexperience; valuing governor contributions, however made - by phone, email or scribbled note - when unable to attend meetings; encouraging governors to feel able to discuss ideas or concerns with the head or chair at any convenient time. These are just a few of the things that can encourage busy governors to contribute effectively to the corporate effort.

Clear, honest and effective communication, combined with positive, open and trusting relationships based on shared understanding and mutual respect between all concerned, must be the key to success.

There is no better time to be a governor if you truly care about contributing to developing the effectiveness of our learning organisations, whatever we call them in this emerging new world of extended services and community learning centres. There is enormous personal satisfaction in being an integral part of a team striving to offer firm foundations on which future generations can build their lives. Contributing to improving education, safeguarding young people and building strength in communities must make the effort worthwhile. Remember: where there's a will, there's a way.

Angela Dunkerley, School governor in North Lincolnshire.

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