23rd January 1998 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q As a governor trainer, I am bothered by the number of requests I get from governors for "something on monitoring and evaluation or target setting". They seem to think I can give them a pro-forma, a training session, or even perhaps a tablet to take, which will instantly equip them. I know that in many cases they have scarcely begun to understand their strategic role or how to get the information to support it. They also have serious weaknesses in teamwork and haven't established a good relationship with head and staff and look to me for "a quick fix".

A This question is based on what a participant said at a conference, where a colleague, also a governor trainer, gave the best possible answer which I reproduce with her permission:

"Whenever I get such a request from a governing body I don't know well - or know to be undeveloped - I visit or ring the chair to explore where they are in terms of teamwork and relationships, which must be worked on before they can play any part in raising standards.

A few well-armed questions usually help them to realise this and I can then offer an in-house training session and suggest reading material. Mostly I don't need to push it too hard. Even governing bodies which have had some basic training need to understand that school improvement processes aren't just the next training subject after you've "done" roles and relationships.

The reality is that teamwork and relationships, far from being ever "done", need constant overhaul and repair, while school improvement is the purpose of it all which never changes."

Q Is it right for one governor - a parent governor - to write the governors' report to parents? I am quite willing to do it as I have some experience of doing a newsletter in my job, but I am not sure whether it is good practice.

A As long as all the governors see the report in draft and formally adopt it, it is not illegal for one person to write it. I do not think it is good practice, however. It is desirable that it should be a team effort, because: (a) governors are most effective when there is a culture of sharing the work and responsibility; (b) they are legally responsible and it is dangerous to give up too much control when the responsibility remains; (c) however good the writer it is a wide field for one person to cover and be sure not to miss anything; and (d) because it is likely to be more varied and interesting if many hands contribute.

I think the ideal is for the whole governing body to put its mind to the character and general content of the report first, then for a small team to take on the responsibility for planning it and collecting and editing the contributions, and for many individuals to be involved in writing up particular subjects. I am sure your editing experience will be a great help to the governing body of your school in ensuring that the report is of a high standard and has an overall continuity and character. Governors must always approve the final draft at a meeting.

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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