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Leaders must reach out - someone will be there

It was disappointing to read in last week's cover feature ("It's lonely at the top") that school leader Jonathan Block felt unable to tell his chair of governors that he was not sleeping at night.

Chairs of governors have a responsibility for the pastoral care of their school's leader. They should seek to establish a working relationship that enables the latter to speak honestly about matters that may impinge on their performance. It is, of course, incumbent on the chair to keep such conversations confidential.

Inevitably, the ability of the chair to provide support depends on their own life experiences or, perhaps, whether they have supervisory or management experience in their own career.

Whatever the circumstances, the chair should in the first instance seek to support the school leader, either directly or with discreet external help. If the latter's performance is significantly affected it becomes an issue in any case for the chair, who may then have to make some difficult decisions. Sometimes, being a chair of governors can be lonely, too.

David Backhouse, Chair of governors, Mayfield School, Redbridge.

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