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Second-class members?

We now have two governors on our board who are undertaking a certificated course in governance. Would it be correct for the other governors to defer to them over questions of correct procedure? And do they have any more right than the others to be elected to office or given particular responsibilities? I accept that these two members have shown great commitment and will probably know more than the rest of us about the law and accepted good practice, but I feel uneasy about having two classes of governors.

I am sorry, but not altogether surprised by your questions. I have had misgivings myself from time to time about qualifications in governance, and wondered whether we should ever have a distinction between "qualified" and "unqualified" members.

But I must respect the initiative of those who have pioneered these courses and the commitment of those who undertake them. Anything which improves the quality of governors' work, and even more so perhaps its status, is welcome.

We have to work hard sometimes to promote the standing of the governing body as a legitimate institution. We may be volunteers, but the governing body is no more a voluntary body than a magistrates' court. Both are part of the structure of lay decision-making which is a feature of our society. The fact that we are "volunteers" should not be an excuse for marginalising us, nor should we use it as an excuse to get away with less then our best.

Having said that, I would be unhappy if certificated training became divisive.

I say often enough that all governors have equal rights to contribute and hold office. I can only repeat that no training or experience entitles the participant to special status.

Expertise is welcome if it enables all to participate more confidently, but we must distinguish between information about what we can do and judgment about what we ought to do, which is for everybody.

What's more, all of us have a duty to learn the basic framework of our role and the working-together rules, however we get that knowledge. We all have access to good guidance on the law as well as local training.

No governor has a monopoly on information, nor should any other governor participate without making an effort to learn.

I would hope that governors who are working for a qualification would be modest, being aware of how much more there always is to learn. I would also hope that colleagues in turn would be grateful for qualified members' contribution. But decisions must be made by all.

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