Joan Sallis answers governors' questions

I hope I am an effective governor, but I feel great sympathy for our headteacher on the rare occasions when we disagree with him. I believe I was appointed to support everybody connected with the school and I now realise it is more difficult than I thought.

We are a mixed bunch of people with different viewpoints but we mostly end up with the same conclusion. Fine if that is what the head wants, but it must be difficult for him when it isn't. It is, after all, his life's work, while we serve our time and move on, and he is very exposed within the school when he has to face staff and can't deliver the policies he thinks correct.

Am I talking nonsense or is there is a case for supporting the head if we possibly can?

Any headteacher would love such a sensitive governor. I agree that the best sort of meeting is one from which we can go home knowing we were all united on the right courses to take. And we mostly can, as long as we conscientiously absorb all the information we are given, think hard and honestly about it, and don't forget why we are there. Above all I hope governors realise there are areas where we should bow to professional opinion - I seem to spend half my life reminding them that the day-to-day aspects of delivering the curriculum, providing an orderly environment , managing the available time, space, people and equipment to best advantage, are not our business, and neither are technical aspects of how to teach.

A wise head will have a built-in caution about the possibility of disagreement in areas where governors have the last word, knowing that the law has provided for centuries for a body of ordinary people to be drawn from the community to help steer the school's general course, to see that public money is well spent, to protect the interests of the school's users and sometimes to provide a judicial decision - for instance in a staff discipline case.

If you find governors can't conscientiously avoid a decision which will upset head andor staff, I hope there is scope in your school for your chair or a representative group to provide frank explanations to those affected.

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