You may have heard of those schools where the adulation and personality cult of the headteacher is at uncomfortable levels. If you are unlucky, you may work in one. And if you are really unlucky, you will be on the governing body that has to deal with one.
School success hangs on this individual like a newly minted medal; all are subordinate to the glorious leader. But any hint of failure belongs only to the rogue underling.
How, as a governor, do you deal with such an individual?
Most headteachers are mere mortals and they understand that governors are an integral part of school success. They see a school as a team and realise that everything should be focused on the children. This leadership model makes the organisation more resilient to change, ensures year-on-year success, and benefits the students.
When a head aspires to the superhero headteacher role, all this good work disappears. It can end in tears for the person and the children.
These headteachers have a serious misunderstanding of the role of governors. The roles are complementary, not competitive. Governors are not an “amateur” annoyance to be managed; we are equivalent to non-executive directors from any aspect of public life.
When I talk to other governors, I hear rumours of headteachers sidelining responsibilities from governors or pushing their pay range beyond where it should be. They dislike the increasing confidence and authority of boards, especially when it comes to their performance management.
Governors should provide appropriate challenge, they should plan for what’s next, and focus on what’s best for children at every meeting.
Governors see headteachers come and go: we play the long game of strategy, always with one eye on how to improve the lives of the children at our school. If the headteacher is a barrier to the latter, then it is the job of governors to seek a solution.
The writer is a primary governor in the North West of England