Skip to main content

Sometimes it's best to go gracefully

Two weeks ago an 'abused and insulted' Alan Bain explained why he had quit as chair of governors after 21 years. Barbara Spender says his anger may have been misplaced

Alan Bain is surely being disingenuous in his presentation of events at his former school (TES, June 14).

He does not tell us on what grounds his school was placed in special measures but it cannot have been solely because governors had failed to develop their strategic role. No school fails just because its governors are inefficient.

Presumably the Office for Standards in Education's judgment is underpinned by a history of poor educational standards, poor results and poor value for money which the governing body, under his leadership, failed to identify and remedy. His comments on the "complicated" information supplied by his headteacher and his difficulty with "education and management jargon" casts doubts on his ability to grasp current educational issues and the realities of his own school's performance.

Did he and his governing body, well-intentioned but ill-informed, allow their school and, most importantly, its pupils to drift into under-achievement and failure?

Did they, like many others, see their primary purpose as providing the head with uncritical support when they should have been focusing on improving standards through objective criticism?

I am a governor at my daughter's primary which, in 1999, was also judged to be failing. Like the Reverend Bain, we were also treated like naughty and irresponsible children and left to sort out an almighty mess with not a lot of help.

We too entered a round of lengthy and sometimes painful meetings, and engaged in a vertiginously steep learning curve.

Our chair of governors, similarly a veteran of unnumbered years, resigned and was, ironically, replaced by our newest member who had only three months' experience of governorship. Under her leadership we underwent extensive training and restructured our meetings so that each committee had a clearly defined remit. Each meeting was focused purposefully on improving standards.

When OFSTED came back after two years it judged our school to be "good and rapidly improving". Our contribution as governors was described as "outstanding". We try to approach our role in a professional and business-like manner.

Alan Bain should accept OFSTED's judgment gracefully. As he says, 21 years is a long time for any organisation to continue under one leadership. I hope the colleagues he leaves behind will discover, as we did, just how much a fresh approach at the top will enable them to achieve for their school.

Barbara Spender is a governor of Weeke primary, Winchester, Hampshire

Log in or register for FREE to continue reading.

It only takes a moment and you'll get access to more news, plus courses, jobs and teaching resources tailored to you