11th July 1997 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions


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?


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.


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?


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.

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today