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RUNNING training courses for chairs and aspiring chairs of governing bodies, as I just have, was a doddle. By definition they are articulate, experienced, knowledgeable people with strong opinions. The role of the facilitator is to light the blue touch paper and retire. I set them to work in groups discussing the qualities and skills required by chairs and the problems in managing relationships with the head, staff, parents and the community. Dragging them back to plenary sessions felt like an unwelcome intrusion. I could have gone home.

The common theme emerging from newly appointed chairs was how to challenge entrenched bad practice. One participant said his first sight of the agenda was when the clerk sent it to him through the post. Another revealed that her headteacher's report was delivered verbally and at great length at the governors' meeting.

Others complained of lack of participation from fellow governors. Chairs who were doubling as link governors and chairs of finance or personnel committees naturally wished to share the load. We suggested skills audits and training courses to empower others - perhaps they are just shy?

My colleagues left determined to confront controlling heads and idle governors. It's easy to be brave in a crowd. I hope they see it through.

Joan Dalton

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