IN THE brave new world of deregulation outlined in the education Bill, governing bodies will need a good clerk more than ever before.
We now have a national induction training programme and a BTEC award for governors. Clerking is the new focus of the Department for Education and Skills which has been working with Information for School and College Governors on describing their role.
Some local education authorities provide a clerking service, others do not. Some clerks are trained, others are not. Duties vary from one governing body to another. And they are paid an honorarium (Latin for peanuts) or a very modest hourly rate.
Yet governors know that good clerks are worth their weight in gold. Faced with this, a small group of clerks in Wiltshire helped develop a nationally accredited award, working with the county's governor support team and Lynn Willmott, an independent training consultant experienced in national vocational qualifications.
The BTEC advanced certificate in support and administration of the governing body (approved by exam board Edexcel) is designed to improve and accredit the skills and knowledge of clerks; meet the demands from clerks for national accreditation; and improve the effectiveness of school governing bodies.
It covers self-development, organising and recording business meetings, managing and organising work, managing the flow of written information, and contributing to the maintenance of the governing body constitution. Although each of the five units requires 30 learning hours, the award accredits what many clerks already do and know and is assessed on the basis of a portfolio of evidence. An experienced clerk will not find it a huge burden. It will provide a new clerk with a sound induction and reassure governors that their clerk can do the job. Much of the learning time will include time spent in meetings and two optional training days.
When I introduced the award to clerks at their annual conference last summer I guessed that maybe five clerks would be willing to serve as guinea pigs. I was taken aback by how many came forward. Clearly, this was an idea whose time had come.
The first cohort of about 20 have been through an induction day which introduced them to the detail of the units and their assessors - also local clerks, experienced in assessing NVQs. I have written to the head and chair of governors of the schools from which our guinea-pigs come to let them know what their clerk is doing and to encourage their support.
They are now working their way through the award. We estimate it will take about 18 months, though some may manage it more quickly, especially if they are used to the NVQ format. They will meet regularly with their assessor who will guide them through the processes of assessment.
The quality and consistency of the work is verified through governor support and managed through Wiltshire's NVQ centre.
The cost per candidate is approximately pound;250, including registration and assessment fees, central costs and training. No clerk in our first cohort has had to pay a penny, as governor support is covering all costs from annual subscriptions to the service.
The award has been designed to be relevant on a national scale and other governor support teams have shown interest in it. We own the award and would like to make it available elsewhere, probably via a franchise arrangement. Since we have developed a complete support package, this could also be made available, in whole or in part, to interested LEAs.
I would be happy to receive expressions of interest via email (address given below).
If other authorities were to offer the award and the response from their clerks is anything like what happened here, we could see a significant rise in the confidence and quality of clerking nationally within the next two years.
David Marriott is head of governor support, Wiltshire, and author of 'The Effective School Governor', Network Educational Press Ltd 1998. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org