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Let our people speak

Jane Phillips responds to criticisms of her survey of governor responsibilities.

Joan Sallis ("Polls, damned polls and statistics", TES, October 13) makes some valid points in her critique of the survey I conducted on behalf of The TES and the National Association of Governors and Managers (TES, September 22). However, in three respects, I must disagree with the conclusions.

First, she misinterprets the statistical validity of the data. This was a re-run of a previous survey using the same sample design. Thus it shows "trend" data, making it possible to draw statistically-valid conclusions with a small sample - in this case, 270 governors this year and 336 last year.

These governors have shown that they are less content about certain responsibilities than they were last year. With this size of

sample, a change of about 8

percentage points is statistically significant. This change is reached and substantially exceeded in several areas, so it is inappropriate to describe these findings as "innocent grumbles".

Second, the point that governors "appear keener than ever" needs furher discussion. The survey suggests that this is too simplistic a view. These governors are still as keen as they were last year to carry out many of their functions. But they are more concerned that some of these tasks do not sit comfortably on the shoulders of volunteers.

As volunteers, they can walk away. (I heard today of a governing body which has been reduced to three members.) Further anecdotal evidence tells of difficulties in the recruitment and retention of governors.

Third, I disagree with the implied assertion that research should not be given publicity if it carries an uncomfortable message, or because its findings can be misused. That way leads to the totalitarian state.

If governors are to lead the debate, then their voices must be heard. The full report shows that governors have a well-informed, thoughtful and articulate voice. They have sent a powerful and cogent message. They deserve to be listened to.

Jane Phillips is a governor trainer and consultant and vice-chairwoman of NAGM. Telephone 0121 643 5787 for copies of the report (pound;2.50 including pamp;p).

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