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Governors taking new role too far says NUT

Some even check on teachers' time-keeping in the playground, reports Karen Thornton

GOVERNORS are overstepping their powers by trying to tell teachers how to teach - and are even checking whether they have left their classrooms tidy after lessons.

So says the biggest teaching union, which is calling for a full review of governors' responsibilities. The National Union of Teachers believes most governors don't want the extra duties that they are being given by ministers - and may not be capable of taking them on.

In a submission to a House of Commons education committee inquiry into the role of school governors, the NUT says governors have an important part to play in representing local communities.

But it claims most governors do not want to become quasi-managers or inspectors.

Recent legislation has placed additional responsibilities on governing bodies in respect of target-setting for pupils, staff appointments, appraisal, and the performance and pay of headteachers.

Sometimes they go a step or two beyond. Doug McAvoy, the NUT's general secretary, pointed to the example of a Midlands chair of governors who checked up on messy classrooms and on whether teachers arrived punctually for playground duty.

That was easier to tackle than the Home Counties chairman who tried to stop the headteacher interviewing new staff.

At a school in Birmingham, the chair monitored teachers' classroom performance and justified his behaviour by saying he was supporting the headteacher.

An East Anglian governing body set up its own monitoring system, with members "going into classrooms and behaving like OFSTED inspectors in assessing the teachers", he claimed.

"The difficult one is the chair of governors who wants to interfere in the professional judgment of how the school should implement policy," said Mr McAvoy.

"It becomes necessary to ensure they understand where their role ends and where the headteacher and management team role begins, and to draw attention to their job as overseer rather than implementer."

The NUT wants staff to be allowed to complain to their local education authority if the behaviour of a governor or governing body undermines their work.

All governing bodies should have a trained clerk, who would alert the education authority to "any signs of conflict between governors and headteachers and staff", the union says.

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