A new beginning

20th October 2000 at 01:00
Karen Thornton reports on efforts to ensure new governors arrive at their first meeting with a basic grasp of their role

EVERY new governor should be entitled to the same basic training to prepare them properly for their role, according to the Department for Education and Employment.

To achieve this goal, officials are working on a new national framework for induction training.

The proposed framework emphasises three key roles - strategy, accountability, and acting as a critical friend. Local education authorities and other governor training providers have been invited to contribute to the programme's development and provide examples of good practice.

Ministers are concerned to ensure that governors focus on their strategic role. A recent Cabinet Office report claimed they were responsible for much of the red tape afflicting headteachers.

And a TES-commissioned survey ("Governors say pay up or ease off", TES, September 22) found many governors want rid of administrative jobs, but support strategic responsibilities such as appointing the head, and overseeing school development and special needs policies.

But ensuring every new governor gets trained could prove difficult. Governors are under no compulsion to undertake training, and local education authorities will not be required to deliver the new framework.

A DFEE spokesman said: "We as a department will work hard to create an awareness and expectation that there is this programme out there.

"It will enable governors to compare their local authority's induction programme with what's available via the national framework, and make their own judgments."

June Nesbitt, a DFEE official, promised delegates at the Colchester conference of the Co-ordinators of Governor Services- the organisation for local authority and independent governor trainers - that there would not be a "central script", as there had been for training on performanc management. But the focus on strategy, accountability and the critical friend role was not negotiable, she said.

"The three key roles are given. Ministers don't want governors to have any doubt that this is what they should be about right from the outset."

Michele Robbins, an education consultant working for the DFEE on the new induction training, said: "This is to make sure all governors get the same key messages on what governing is about." But she emphasised the need for new governors who take up induction training to receive the same messages from schools when they start working.

"It's important for governors to come along to induction courses, but it's not a substitute for what goes on in-house.

"Whatever we do as trainers, it has to be backed up in schools by headteachers and chairs of governing bodies."

Claudia Wade, the new chairwoman of the Co-ordinators of Governors' Services gave a cautious welcome to the DFEE initiative.

"It's something governor trainers are keen to do. But it's important that good practice is built on. Governors and governor services have in some instances spent 10 years developing good practice in their own local context, which must not be lost in the provision of a national package."

Other delegates at the conference said they were providing "pre-induction" training for some new governors. This is at a more basic level than the new framework and covers issues such as why we have school governors, how to ask questions in meetings and get issues on agendas, what the clerk does and how to contact him or her.

The Government's advisory group on governors will meet next week (October 24) to discuss the DFEE's training proposals.

A trial of the six-hour programme will take place in Oxford in the new year. Pilots in two further areas are expected to follow before the programme is rolled out to trainers next spring and to governors next autumn.

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