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Brighton starts small revolution

Brighton-based enthusiasts for school governance may have helped trigger a small revolution in Russia.

For more than two years, educationists from the seaside town have been supporting the development of governing bodies in Siberian schools.

Now the work of the British Council-funded pilots could be taken up across Russia with plans to require all its schools to have governors by 2007.

Rosalind Turner, Brighton's assistant director for children, families and schools and a consultant to the project, has just returned from her third visit to Krasnoyarsk.

The region is seven times the size of France, stretching from the Arctic to the Mongolian border, but has only around three million citizens.

Temperatures range from 30 to minus 30 C.

Standards of education are high, but the regional government is keen to get more people participating in education, through governing bodies. And it is looking to Brighton for help.

But the learning has been far from one way, says Ms Turner. The Russians are ahead of the English when it comes to pupil involvement in school life and parental enthusiasm.

For example, one group of parents, concerned about creating a good learning environment, carried out their own research and then set about decorating and furnishing their school accordingly.

Ms Turner said: "It set us all thinking about how we can regenerate our governance movement.

"There is so much loaded on governors here that we have lost some of the fun, excitement and direct participation."

Jane Bentley, head of Peter Gladwin primary, another of the four-strong Brighton party, described their role more as "critical friends". "They weren't adapting our model wholesale, they were making it fit for themselves," she said.

"We learned as much from them as they could have learned from us. I was impressed by how proactive the governors were. Here, we have been too busy reacting to government initiatives."

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