13th November 1998 at 00:00
Q. I was concerned by your answer on heads who ask for a pay rise (October 9) It is heads who should resent having to go cap in hand to people who are often either amateurs or who work for them, and are then made to feel guilty for asking. If governors can't cope with this job, that's their problem.

A. I think you speak for many headteachers. But I was also responding to many governors who, having judged that there is no case for an increase within the rules, feel embarrassed by having to refuse.

It isn't a pleasant situation and I'm sure I'm not the only governor who,given a choice, would sooner not have that particular job, though I have to admit that it probably goes logically with the other roles we have. All I was trying to say is that we are doing the job the law has given us and within the criteria laid down, and those criteria don't provide for automatic increases. Therefore if a head seeks an increase when there is no obvious change to warrant it, governors feel bad.

I cannot, however, let your remarks about "amateurs" and people "who work for you" go unchallenged. The misconceptions behind these words are widespread, and lie at the heart of many poor relationships. The fact is that every expert who does a job in our society is in some way answerable either to a client or to a body of representative non-experts. a school governor is no different from a magistrate, a juror, an MP, councillor, member of a health authority or an executive company director. All make serious decisions on behalf of the community or undertaking. They have experts to advise them and others to carry out their decisions. But they themselves have this role by virtue of representing ordinary people and the community's interest in certain activities, including users and shareholders.

As for staff governors, the law has decreed that staff should contribute to the range of interests and opinions brought to bear on governing schools. It also makes it clear that they may only be kept out of particular activities if they stand to gain personally from the outcome. it is of course open to teacher governors not to serve on a pay committee if they are uncomfortable.

Q. In my last school (primary) governors were welcome to watch classes at work. Now, in this secondary school, I am told it is not done. What are my rights?

A. Governors have no automatic right to visit schools, though it is desirable that we all do so; and observing children's learning is essential to understand the process about which we make decisions. We have a right to do so: (a) if the head invites us or, (b) if the governing body has made a decision or established a procedure which requires it. A wise governing body will set up a policy on visiting, either on a rota, or on an attachment to class or subject area, or for a duty period of, say, a month where "duty" includes observing classes. Raise this at your governing body. When visiting be courteous and remember you are there to learn, not inspect.

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