For governors to act as critical friends, they must know a lot about a school: the quality of education it offers; the progress and achievements of its pupils (including their social, moral, cultural and spiritual development); the standard of behaviour; and the ability of the leadership team to inspire growth and development.
Governors garner this data first-hand through school visits, secondhand via reports from the senior management team and third-hand by way of information from the local authority or the inspectorate.
The most potent source of knowledge is the headteacher's report for the termly governors' meeting. If this arrives late (or not at all), how on earth can governors digest the information and ask questions that will lead to meaningful dialogue and developments?
When headteachers are late submitting their reports, they usually trot out one of two reasons. Some say they want the information to be as up to date as possible, hence the lateness. This is a lame excuse because headteachers - who are meant to send out their reports with the agenda papers at least seven days before the meeting - always make oral submissions as well.
Others aver that they are run off their feet so don't have the time to write reports a week in advance. Undoubtedly, headteachers are extremely busy people and constantly have to find ways to fit gallons of work into pint pots of time. However, when a report is submitted late, the headteacher clearly has managed to create time to write it - albeit just before the meeting. My contention is that this time should be set aside a fortnight earlier so that every report is included with the agenda.
This vital activity must be prioritised to give governors the information they need to discharge their duties responsibly.
David Sassoon is an educational consultant
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