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The School Governor - Committees ... who needs them?

Solidity is normally a great thing. But some structures need flexibility, especially those that affect how we organise our business. If your committee structure has been set for some time, the autumn is a good time to see whether it really suits your governing body's current needs.

First, do you actually need committees at all? A system that has been tested and enthusiastically endorsed by a small governing body in Sussex does without them. Key roles such as finance, special educational needs and health and safety are given to individual governors to work on with the school's senior leadership team and report to the governing body, which then makes the decisions. The governing body meets twice a term - once mainly for business and the second time to concentrate on strategic issues.

A system tried in Kent has pairs of governors monitoring and evaluating specific areas of the school plan. A strategy group meets regularly with the leadership team to look at school improvement, and all report to the governing body.

Kent has also tried two other methods of governance. One also does without committees. The half-termly governing body meetings address issues of school improvement. Individuals or pairs of governors go away and work on areas identified for monitoring and evaluation. Their reports feed into the improvement planning, thereby creating a cycle of decisions, monitoring, evaluation and decisions.

The other scheme is better suited to large governing bodies. Two teams report to a strategic group on the school plan - one on resources and the other on learning and development. The teams are flexible, and governors can spend time on one and then move to the other, giving them a wide experience of the governing body's work.

These are, of course, not the only ways of doing things. Whatever your system is, the important question is: does the structure answer to the needs of the governing body's work, or do you create work to meet the needs of the structure?

Stephen Adamson, Vice-chair of the National Governors' Association.

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