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Power-shearing opposed

Joan Sallis believes ministers' plans would destroy the

system which ensures schools are accountable and fair

I HAVE spent half a lifetime working for effective governing bodies. I am shocked by the Government's latest proposals for change (see TES, November 24, or the Government's website on

There are now not many people around with personal

experience of the debased system which the reforms of the 1980s replaced. So I am glad that the National Governors' Council, at whose conference the proposals were first announced, gave them a chilly reception. They were presented as a gift to 350,000 school governors - a mere 270 of whom had complained about workload!

The plan is to remove some of governors' most strategic roles - ones which to me seem vital for schools to be run with the experience, the accountability and the transparent fairness they need.

The powers that the Department for Education and Employment wants to take away are:

monitoring school budgets

(up to pound;3 million a year in the biggest schools);

a say in the choice of staff below deputy head;

initial teacher disciplinary


teachers' pay and promotions.

Involvement in budgeting, appointments and personnel issues provides some of the best learning experience governors can have. It also protects teachers against unfairness and is central to the strategic direction of the school. Remember that before governors were made responsible, the education authority dealt with personnel issues and LEA inspectors took part in appointments.

I am not saying that most headteachers would not be fair, but they must be seen to be so, and it is not right that a single individual should have this amont of power. Governors' involvement is light, but an important guarantee of openness.

It is also proposed to reintroduce the grouping of schools under a shared governing body. I wish all readers could remember the outrageous abuses associated with grouping before 1980. There were also thousands of governors who had little direct knowledge of, or involvement in, the half-dozen or more scattered schools they looked after.

Grouping is even more damaging now that schools have personnel responsibilities and school inspections, which both need sensitive handling and privacy. Its reintroduction will strike at the heart of accountability.

We welcome a reduction in bureaucracy. But these changes are not about form-filling. It's all very well to talk about governors having influence through

statements of aims and ethos, development plans, and the like. Such documents can be splendid, but, be honest, aren't most just corporate mission-speak?

I've spoken out often enough against governors meddling in the day-to-day operation of schools. So I won't be misunderstood when I say that there are some things governors must do themselves and not simply make mission statements about.

I hope some of the 350,000

governors and half-a-million teachers will speak out against these reactionary proposals which do no credit to a

government committed to more accountable and responsive schools.

Agenda returns next week.

E-mail your questions for Joan Sallis to, or write to her care of "The TES", Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205.

E-mail your views on the

Government's proposals to Karen Thornton at or write to the above address.

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