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On the Board

Sir Malcolm Thornton Talks To Reva Klein. Sir Malcolm Thornton is Conservative MP for Crosby and chair of the Commons select committee on education. Formerly leader of Wirral Borough Council, he has been the only chair of governors of Liscard Primary in Wallasey, the Wirral, for 20 years. He is married to a primary head and has one son.

Why did you become a governor?

I wanted to keep in touch with what was going on in my ward. I had been shadow chair of education before I became leader of the council. In those early days my formative views on primary education began to harden, as did my realisation of the importance of getting things right.

What do you enjoy most?

Contact with the children. I go in regularly - though not as much as I'd like.

What do you enjoy least?

Not being able to effect as many improvements for the school as I'd like because of constraints like capital expenditure. I feel impatient and frustrated with the limitations of my budget.

What do you bring to governing?

I'm a fairly unique animal: a former council leader on a number of education committees and married to a primary head. I involve governors without imposing my views on them, adopting a similar approach to that of chairing the select committee - listening to what people say, helping to draw together people's views.

What is the one thing you would change about your school?

Resourcing. I'd like to have the funding to allow us a comprehensive, rolling programme for work on the building.

Where has the most support come from?

I've been supported by my fellow governors and have worked with two excellent heads. Too many governing bodies seem unwilling to adjust their attitudes about who does what - those issues need to be addressed. There are also some governing bodies where undue influences are being exerted by, for example, parents who don't understand the role that governors have.

What must governors never do?

They must never think they alone have the right to interfere in every nook and cranny of the way their school is run. Nor must they undermine the work of senior managers. Neither should they underpin inefficiency and failure.

What powers do governors have which they shouldn't have?

Many misunderstand their powers. I'd like to see clarification at a national level of the relationship between the head and the governing body.

Do your politics affect your role as governor?

I never allow my party affiliations to influence my governing. I allow my work as MP and chair of the select committee to inform my work, but my only thought as chair is how to benefit the school. I do not fight party political battles.

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