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Learning to talk in target-speak;Briefing;Governors

Geoff Hand tries to figure out a governing body development plan

As governors, we've got used to a school development plan. We have, as requested, sent in our comments on the local authority's development plan. And now we're being encouraged to have our own governing body development plan. "Keep it simple. Just four or five targets for the first year ..."

We meekly submit to the local authority's advice but those of us with a tendency to cynicism wonder if our real motivation is the prospect of OFSTED Mark 2 - and if the local authority's motivation is similarly linked with their own forthcoming inspection. Can there be any intrinsic value in all of this?

Five minutes' discussion was enough to show there was no shortage of areas where we would like some help. Just how well are we prepared for the ever-increasing number of responsibilities that successive governments throw our way? What is - and more importantly, what is definitely not - covered by our monitoring role? We are convinced that governors are not and should not be inspectors - but what will be mutually acceptable and effective as a monitoring strategy?

First, though, we decided to look at our own organisation. Like most governing bodies, we are finding it harder to recruit new governors - and harder still to retain them once the paperload hits. In target-speak, our aim is: "to increase the effectiveness of our governing body recruitment, induction and retention procedures."

How, or, in target-speak:" what actions to achieve the above?" It's all very well to have an induction programme, but that's too late for people who have volunteered without much idea of what is involved. So we are drawing up an information sheet asking: what qualifications or experience do I need, what do governors do, how much time will it take?

It's some while since we reviewed our induction pack. Opinion is divided on the contents: do we put in everything a new governor needs to know or do we select enough to titillate - without being off-putting?

Then there's our induction programme. Those of us who have been around for a while reckon we've got a pretty good system ("I had nothing like this when I started out..."). New governors seem to have a less rosy view, so they need to be brought in.

Lastly, is there anything we can do to retain our governors?

We have to ensure that everyone feels valued, and that their skills are matched to the needs of the governing body. A skills audit should enable us to do the matching. We are looking at devolving some of the chair's responsibilities (essential since the job has grown so much that no one person can meet all its demands) and making sure every governor is involved in action groups.

When by? With several vacancies about to be filled, we obviously need to complete within the next month. We can then space other targets throughout the year.

In target-speak: "to review the constitution and terms of reference of the committees to ensure they include all the roles needed to contribute to the governing body's aim of improving standards in the school; to provide guidance for governors on classroom visits; to develop governors' skills in the monitoring of attainment and to set out a mutually-acceptable strategy for monitoring the performance of the school."

Come the end of the year, how shall we know how effective it has all been? In target-speak: "success criteria - as far as our first target is concerned, success will equate to a lower turnover rate of governors." At the end of the year we shall review the governing body, looking for who is satisfied and who is staying on.

So, is the process useful? It has certainly concentrated our minds on what needs to be done and how best to set about it. Target-speak: "priorities and implementation strategies."

Geoff Hand is a governor of two West Sussex primary schools

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