24th March 2000 at 00:00
SEVERAL of my fellow governors make no effort to keep up to date, resist doing any real work, and go through meetings with a constant muttering of congratulations to the school on this and commiserations on the other - all meaningless. It is as though they are still operating in the days when being a governor was just a hobby and you had no real say, but felt vaguely important. How can we deal with this?

YES, there are still governors like the ones you describe. While both the quality and commitment of new entrants are very high, I know many feel as you do about those who don't pull their weight. Don't be too hard, though, on the congratulations and commiserations: real praise and sympathy have a place.

What can we do? We can first make sure that, when we encourage people to put themselves forward, we don't, in our anxiety not to put them off, say it's just one meeting a term and the harvest festival. That's a con. What's more it won't deliver the goods. It is far better to tell them that it needs time and commitment.

Above all, governors need a framework of clear expectations of each other. This will, I assure you, changethings. No need to lecture or scold, simply convey what you expect as a group in everything you do. Tthere are "nuts-and-bolts" answers to

this as to most other governor problems.

By nuts and bolts I mean things like your review (now legally required at least once a year) of committee membership. Make sure you expect everyone to be on at least one committee; check on reasons for absences from meetings (now a requirement); involve governors in interviews for staff appointments and other recurring duties; expect every governor to have a minimum contact with the school at work.

Nuts and bolts also includes good meeting habits: giving individuals an issue to research and present now and then; going round the table for comments on important decisions; bringing individuals into discussions; and making it clear that everybody is expected to go to training. When members fail to do what they've undertaken through these systems, notice it.

A little tough love is good for everybody. It involves a totally different conception of what "voluntary" means. Too often it is an excuse for all the ways in which we fall short.

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