7th April 1995 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions. My governors pay little attention to the report I submit to them at each meeting. Governors have a lot to get through and a head's job is demanding these days. Am I really required to produce reports?

There is nothing in the law to say that you have to submit a termly report. But I'm afraid what the law does say is that you are required to give governors any information they ask for. I suggest you put heads' reports on the agenda, tell governors the full extent of their rights, and ask them what sort of information they would welcome. As they have so far not been active, however, I think you must be ready with some suggestions.

One of the things I keep on about is that reports should give governors encouragement to plan their work, which means looking forward and not just reporting on the past. If you add some reminders about issues coming up for decision before the next meeting or issues which, for any reason, need airing, you could well be rewarded by governors beginning to assume responsibility for their own work, planning their meeting dates, setting up task groups, collecting facts.

More generally, the report should be the main raw material of the meeting. It can be the governors' gateway to the school, providing them with the stimulus and the material to get involved in the key issues at any particular time. It is also a valuable way of increasing governors' knowledge and understanding of the school: I see that it is a primary school and you might, for instance, ask if they'd like different curriculum leaders to contribute a written item in turn (coming to introduce it personally if they like) on, for example, current policy in the teaching of reading, technology in the primary school, music or sport. Other subjects not often covered in the traditional report are current behaviour problems, school clubs and activities, communication with parents. The more these reports pose questions and options and air problems, the more response you will get.

Note: I am grateful to G T Kingsley (Letters, March 24) for putting me right on teachers' contracts. I accept there is no contractual barrier to using the five school closures for work other than professional development if that is what the head decrees. I was concerned with the appropriateness of using them for housekeeping tasks.

Whatever the contractual situation, these days are now normally called INSET (in-service education and training) days and that is how most governors, teachers and parents see them. Governors, with their responsibility for the conduct of the school, are right to question the practice described in my correspondent's letter.

One vital role of governors is to consider goodwill between teachers and parents. Reasonable parents accept it is in children's interests for teachers to develop professional skills, even if a day closure in term time creates diffuclties for them but some might find it hard to accept its use for tidying cupboards.

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