8th September 2000 at 01:00
AS a new governor I haven't learnt everything, but I do know that we are there to improve the school's standards, and also to be "critical friends". I have also done my homework by listening to what parents say and doing some thinking myself about how the school could be better organised.

Towards the end of term I wrote a few notes on my findings and gave them to the head. They ranged from comments on the quality of some of the teaching, to how the timetable could be better organised to make the most of our teachers' strengths, and things like organising the service of lunches and separating age groups at break times.

To my surprise the head went berserk and said he had had a long training and 30 years' experience in education, and here was a new governor telling him how to run his school.

I'M sure you meant well, but you have certainly made a bad start and given ammunition to thousands of heads who wish we would go away! The phrase "critical friend" can be helpful in suggesting that when people have proved their liking or you, and their concern for your welfare, any well-intentioned critical comments from them will be graciously received, but it often worries me because it encourages governors to do just what you have done.

The critical friend is the governing body, not the individual governor. No school wants 20 critical friends all with different points of view, and besides in law only the governing body, not the individual, has any power. Things the governing body wants to change, if any, have to emerge from discussion at meetings with a proper agenda and papers, all views heard, and with majority agreement - often quite a lengthy process.

All the points you quoted from your list relate to matters which are clearly professional responsibilities, not ours. Ours is a strategic role.

I think it would be sensible to apologise to the head and say that these were mistakes based on inexperience. Otherwise it may rankle with him and you may feel uneasy for longer than the incident warrants. I'm sure he'll respond well. Good luck.

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