7th April 2000 at 01:00
I THINK committees make work and can be divisive. I am chair of a small school, and we meet twice a term. I see the head every Monday morning, and she is very efficient and ready with questions and problems. She and I prepare well for every meeting and so get through the business briskly.

I know we have to have committees for pupil exclusions and one for staff dismisal, so reluctantly we have done that. But it seems very artificial to divide our small manpower into four or five groups in the hope that it will make work


The short answer is that, apart from the two you mention, we aren't required to have committees. And of course I agree that we shouldn't let them proliferate. Having said that, I can't imagine a governing body doing all it should and involving all members without committees.

This last is the key issue. Am I right in suspecting that your detailed work is largely done in your weekly meetings with the head, and that many of the matters requiring attention may not get to the governing body at all?

It sounds as if you may work too closely together, which is

dangerous and doesn't make for good team spirit. Also decisions thus made cold be illegal. If committees are tailored to

genuine needs, if they involve a spread of all interests, are given clear terms of reference and are well-managed, they can produce a better quality of work.

First, they enable all governors to participate fully. Second, they make it possible to discuss issues in more detail and thus prepare them for a decision. Third, if they do give all governors some involvement, they can be the very opposite of divisive, especially if they are open and welcome all members as non-voting participants. This good practice makes individuals less prone to re-run issues at the main meetings. You may say that decisions are made by too small a number of people if you have committees. Yet in my experience governing bodies whose business is

discussed for the first time in full meetings often run greater risks of power resting with too few.

Diffident governors may find it hard to ask questions or

contribute in a large group. If such a system is apparently working well, it may be because a lot of the real discussion has taken place outside the meeting, and the suspicion that this is

so can be very divisive and demoralising.

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