Learning to be better

The Welsh Assembly is investing in research into governor training.

Iola Smith reports.

THE first centre of its kind specialising in school governor training and research has been established at Swansea University's department of education.

With pound;27,000 funding from the National Assembly for Wales, it will spend its first six months analysing existing training provision and assessing the future training needs of governors in Wales.

The first stage of the project involves creating a database of training on offer from education authorities and other agencies.

Following consultation among governors and LEAs, questionnaires have been sent to 2,000 governors in primary, secondary and special schools.

So far, 500 have responded.

"The consensus seems to be that provision is uneven across the principality.

Many LEAs do a lot, but governors point out that the range of courses available to them is related to where they live," said project co-ordinator Rhodri Fowler.

Many of the governors emphasised governing is a voluntary activity. Therefore, making a lot of training mandatory could be counterproductive.

On the other hand, many were quite happy with the idea of compulsory induction training programmes for people to complete when they first decide to become governors. Governors responding to the questionnaire said they were selective about trainin, only choosing courses that were relevant to them.

Half were generally satisfied with what they got. But the vast majority regarded the headteacher of their school as the person they turned to for advice on governing issues.

However, many said they needed further training in key issues, particularly the legal foundation of their roles and responsibilities, and strategic management and planning.

They wanted to know more about how to plan for their school's future needs, and how to ensure that those needs were met. They also wanted help in dealing with school inspections, and with child protection issues.

A minority suggested that training could be improved through information technology.

When all the responses have been received and analysed a report will be submitted to the National Assembly, providing a basis for the co-ordination of governor training across Wales.

Swansea will then submit a bid to the Assembly to handle that training over three years.

Professor Roy Lowe, head of the university's education department, says that he is convinced such a service is needed.

"Having been a governor myself I have had first-hand experience of the need for high-quality training for those who now manage and direct our schools," he said. Good practice must be encouraged, he said, and he hopes to draw comparisons with England and other countries.

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