28th August 1998 at 01:00

I am an experienced governor but have recently started at a different school. I notice that the chair here never asks for a vote, but talks around an issue until he has reached a consensus. Is this good practice?


It depends. Many good governing bodies rarely vote (though I would say "never" is extreme) and genuine consensus can be a mark of a group of people starting with different points of view but who can listen and value what others say, and are ready to change their minds or at least compromise to some extent in the interests of progress and harmony. On the other hand, an appearance of ready consensus often coverts a simmering pot of resentment against a chair who is too dominating and doesn't encourage discussion. This is a very unhealthy governing body which is quite likely to split under pressure or in a crisis, and its decisions will also miss the enrichment that comes from a genuine consensus.

Anyone who suspects that the body they have joined is one of these should try to slow things down deliberately by asking, on any important matter, "if we can go round the table on this one"; soon members will gain confidence and will gradually begin to expect more involvement.

There is no regulation which says that you have to vote on every issue. Every governing body will develop a style of its own and ideally find ways of getting through the business briskly without leaving any members uneasy.Realistically, a group of a dozen or more people are not going to agree exactly and without question on every issue.

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