9th January 1998 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q It's all very well for the Government to lay down that governors set targets. Our experience is that teachers get touchy and unco-operative the moment anyone suggests it.

A I know that there's a lot of this about. To some extent it is insecurity that makes teachers reluctant to discuss with lay people the process of translating hopes into percentages. Teachers have been sensitised by the many years in which they have been talked down to by hostile politicians whose agents, alas, we are sometimes quite wrongly thought to be - a consequence of rushing so fast into education market politics while pursuing the quite unrelated goal of bringing community influence into schools. It is particularly difficult for teachers to accept governors' role in maintaining and raising standards in schools where the relationship between governors and staff has never developed into any real dialogue about teaching and learning; for them it seems crude and artificial.

Try to think about how you can begin to build such a dialogue into your governing processes, and never forget to praise what can be praised: recognise teachers' achievements, take an interest in their working conditions and, above all, spend more time in classrooms sharing their enthusiasms.

It is always best if teachers feel ownership of their own improvement, Try and encourage processes of self-review in your school and express the hope that teachers will help you, as governors, to do what the law will surely ask before another school year begins. We can only set realistic aims with their support. Remember that, despite defensive posturing, they do in the end deliver. Remember, too, that occasionally it may suit a head who knows very well the scope for improvement to blame the governors and the Government for doing it!

Joan Sallis's collection of guides for the different types of governors is now complete. From Northamptonshire Governor Services, Russell House, Rickyard Road, The Arbours, Northampton. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax 0171 782 3200, e-mail:

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