Question: Our head chose not to be a governor although he takes a great interest in the governing body and especially its membership. He openly tries to persuade particular parents and teachers to stand, and regularly mentions possibilities to the local authority for their own representatives. Is it appropriate for him to offer a long list for possible co-options?
Answer: Such a degree of interest in the composition of the governing body is not very healthy, especially from a non-member head. I consider that such a head is a professional adviser who should confine his or her contribution to matters of fact or professional practice, and be careful not to influence governors in those issues within their sphere of responsibility.
If you have no vote you should not try to influence those who do. Heads who opt out do so because they think there are advantages, but detachment has its down side.
A headteacher-governor, on the other hand, as well as being chief professional adviser, has rights to argue, persuade and vote, but the down side is corporate loyalty even where you disagree with a decision.
Question: We have always found it very hard to get parents to stand as governors. The school is in an area of high unemployment and what jobs exist are mostly unskilled. We did manage to get three very good ones but two have to retire in September. Any ideas?
Answer: Often people hang back because they don't know what is involved. Therefore you need to be able to overcome fear of the unknown.
Have you a governor who has a gift for talking in plain language and an encouraging way to people? If so could that governor give a talk to parents?
Don't announce the vacancies in terms which make tax demands sound exciting by comparison. I'm sure it would help if the retiring parent governors wrote a friendly note which could be copied and sent out by child post, saying simply what benefits come from having parents as governors, relating some of the things they have been involved in, not belittling the time commitment, but stressing how interesting it has been and urging parents to think about volunteering for the children's sake.
Often schools with identical social situations have very varying experience of recruiting parent governors, and you can't escape the conclusion that there are other factors. Perhaps the schools with difficulties fail, with the best will in the world, to make such parents feel at home. Perhaps they are schools where the governors don't actually do anything real, or where they are very active but don't manage to make their activity visible. Look honestly at the impression your governing body gives and see if you can find any clues. I would almost be brave enough to say that where a governing body is doing a real and relevant job, that body will not have recruitment problems.