John Dunford, the Association of School and College Leaders' general secretary, believes good chairs of governors can make a huge difference to the management of schools. But he thinks the job is becoming increasingly time consuming, particularly with schools' new wider responsibilities for children and the advent of federations.
Clerks of governing bodies are paid, he said. "I don't see any reason why chairs of governing bodies should not be rewarded as well. Why should they do this important job for nothing?" He envisaged chairs being paid an annual fee equivalent to a part-time job salary, rather than an hourly rate.
"People are not going to be able to earn a living being chairs of governors," Dr Dunford said. "But if we develop a group of semi-professional governors then we have got people with the knowledge and experience to go and help if a school finds itself in a difficult situation."
His call follows a review of school leadership for the Government by PricewaterhouseCooper. It raised the issue at the start of the year, but stopped short of recommending pay.
However, Phil Revell of the National Governors Association said it "strongly disagreed" with the idea. "The difficulty would be that you would be dividing governors into paid and unpaid," he said. "Where is the dividing line and how would you demarcate between their jobs?"
Mick Brookes, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said something needed to be done about onerous duties being placed on voluntary governors, but had reservations about paying them. "We have to be careful not to raise expectations that could lead to less money going to classrooms," he said.
The School Governor, page 25