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Teenage governors proposed

Stumbling home with heavy shopping? Watch out, there may be an SG about. Karen Thornton reports

SCHOOL governors should try to recruit outside local supermarkets or by contacting community groups, MPs were told this week.

Governors and education authorities will have to reach out directly to "ordinary people" if they want governing bodies to represent their local communities better, said Pat Petch, chair of the National Governors Council.

She was giving giving evidence to the education select committee's enquiry into the role of governors.

She said: "We are going to have to be more proactive. We can't rely on one-stop shops and people coming to us saying they want to be governors. We have to make far more contact with community leaders, particularly ethnic minorities.

"We have to say this is about everybody's children, and emphasise the importance of governors and they way they can influence schools through governance."

Committee chairman Malcolm Wicks suggested governors' status in local communities could be boosted by allowing them to use "SG" after their names, in the same way magistrates use "JP." "Why can't you put 'SG' after your name as some kind of recognition of your contribution to your community?" he asked.

Other witnesses told the committee that governing bodies should recruit teenaged pupils as members. Three governors' organisations backed the proposal.

John Adams, chairman of the National Association of Governors and Managers, noted: "Effective governing bodies often involve some contribution from students anyway."

After the hearing Mr Wicks said: "My own experience as a school governor and as a parent of three children is kids have a direct interest in schools. They know what's working and what's not working, and have quite strong views about their education.

"Yesterday we asked 18-year-olds to work out who should be their MEP. Before 18, they can serve in the armed forces, get married and have kids. It's not so absurd to think a 17-year-old could make a contribution to the education provided in his or her own school."

He said it was worth exploring ways of involving older pupils in governance - but couldn't say whether the committee would backt such a proposal to ministers.

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