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Eschewing the fat

Does size matter? The Government certainly thinks so - but rather than "big is beautiful," it's smallness they are promoting.

The Department for Children, Schools and Families is conducting a review of governance, but its findings were somewhat pre-empted by Ed Balls' Children's Plan, which announced the intention to reduce the size of governing bodies.

At present, it's up to governing bodies to set their own size within the limits determined by statute, and you can revisit the decision you made at the last reorganisation if you think you got it wrong. But the DCSF's presumption is that governing bodies of 20 or so are not efficient.

There is certainly a case to be made that you can have too many people in a meeting for them all to engage with it, and that largeness leads to the creation of A and B teams. But for leaner to mean better, one of two things needs to happen. Either there will have to be a reduction in governing body responsibilities, or governors are going to have to focus on core business.

The first is unlikely to happen in any major way. And anyway, despite the workload, governors have difficulty identifying responsibilities they would like to shed. So the message will be: concentrate.

Committee chairs as well as governing body chairs will need the skills to pilot business in such a way that everyone has their fair say while reaching decisions smartly (in both senses of the word). For those who don't have all those skills, there is help in that the course offered by local authorities, Taking the Chair, is not just for chairs of the full governing body.

Sharpening up committees is a good idea anyway, even if governing bodies are not put on a diet. A lot of the business is generally done there, and who can argue against wanting to be smart about it?

Stephen Adamson, Vice-chair, National Governors' Association.

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