The inspectors echo the doubts of many contributors to The TES Role Call debate. There has been almost universal scepticism about governors deciding heads' salaries. And in apparent contradiction to the Department of Education and Employment which told the pay review body the roles of governors in management needed no further clarification, OFSTED says:"Greater clarity about the role of governors in a range of school management issues is needed before governors will be equipped to participate in a fully-informed way in such decision-making processes."
In spite of this, surveys of school pay arrangements by Her Majesty's Inspectors have found two years running that one in three governing bodies had increased the pay of headteachers or their deputies above the level of the national pay award.
"While governors obviously have a close regard to the effect of this on the school budget, evidence that governors have applied clear, transparent criteria to the setting of salaries of heads and deputies is disappointingly slim. In the 1995-96 survey (of 34 schools), the best description of the salary determination process was that of 'striking a deal'.
"Although governors continue to contribute to the development of a pay policy within schools, most remain hesitant about their responsibilities to monitor the operation of that policy. The majority of schools visited by HMI have delegated this responsibility to a finance committee, which frequently relies upon the headteacher as its source of information."
Governing bodies varied considerably. Many had members with professional qualifications and experience, but some schools in disadvantaged areas had difficulty finding them. Many governors saw their role essentially as being supportive of the school and were uneasy about their responsibilities.
"Many take little active initiative and this can put considerable pressure upon the chair of governors and those sitting on the finance committee. It also means that governors are frequently very dependent on the headteacher," OFSTED suggests.
Only in one of the schools surveyed by HMI in a year had there been any debate about the determination of the headteachers' salary. Some members of the governing body were concerned about the increases the headteacher had already had, and were concerned about the request for a further increase.
"The school had a new governor with substantial experience in personnel management with a major nationalised industry. This governor carried out a careful written analysis, drawing on his considerable past experience, of the case for and against the further increase. However, the governing body did not make use of this paper adequately in reaching its decisions."
In the 1994-95 survey HMI had also visited six schools which had used external consultants to try to refine criteria for the pay of head and deputies.
"In some schools the involvement of the consultants had helped the school develop their structures and their competence in management, particularly in matters of staffing. However, it was noticeable that none of the schools had implemented a performance-related pay scheme and none had moved significantly forward in establishing criteria for the determination of the pay of headteachers or their deputies.
"In particular, no school had grapsed the nettle of identifying specific performance indicators to enable governors to carry out the required tasks of salary determination.
"In these schools and in virtually all other schools visited as part of the survey, governing bodies expressed their wish for the development of nationally agreed criteria of nationally agreed performance indicators."