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Governors' 'splendid isolation' set to end

The days of "stand-alone" school and college governors are numbered under a plan to shake up FE governance in Wales.

The Assembly government intends to consult the education fraternity this summer over a new law that would make governors accountable to their community, not just their schools and colleges.

Future secondary school governors look likely to undergo a tougher recruitment process and be expected to work with their college colleagues to raise the academic and vocational results of pupils. They could also be required to undertake more training and be more skilled in business and management.

It is likely that any new law would affect the way governing bodies have traditionally operated in "splendid isolation".

John Griffiths, the deputy skills minister, said the proposed legislation did not threaten the status quo of sixth forms, but school governors would have to collaborate more with colleges.

Launching the consultation, he said: "I want a highly successful, vibrant FE and sixth-form sector, properly placed to act collaboratively and fully committed to the Wales-wide agenda of improved skills, parity of esteem between vocational and academic study, and widening participation to new generations of students."

The proposal picks up a key recommendation of the 2007 Webb review, which concluded that the role of governors in schools and FE institutions needed redefining.

The report - by Professor Adrian Webb, former chancellor of the University of Glamorgan, and academic colleagues - also recommended that local authority members should not sit on governing bodies and that there should be a centralised appointments committee.

Speaking in the Senedd last week, Irene James, Labour AM for Islwyn, asked John Griffiths: "Do you agree that the review of FE governance ... is the perfect opportunity to return colleges to direct democratic control and accountability?"

He answered: "There are no predetermined results, but accountability will be uppermost in that work."

See next week's issue for the reaction of ATL Cymru's Dr Philip Dixon.

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