29th September 2000 at 01:00
I AM lucky to have been appointed head of a school which is likely to be considerably enlarged and thus will recruit extra governors and staff. Experienced heads I meet suggest it's very much a matter of luck what sort of governors you get, and perhaps I am being starry-eyed to think a head can have some influence. But I cling to the hope that a positive approach to the whole business of governors affects the quality of recruits. What do you think?

I, too, find the fatalistic attitude of many heads to the quality of governors deeply depressing. I really believe that, over time, the character of the head is the most significant influence on recruitment and retention.

The best recruiting agency is the reputation of the current governing body. If the governing body is a pretence it will attract pretenders, if it's a battlefield it will tempt aggressors, if it is a shambles it will recruit muddlers and if it is treated with respect it will attract people worthy of respect.

If you work to make it a good team, with clear aims and effective working practices, achieving a steadily improving school, I'm sure people will want to join it - provided they know about it. It's important that what governors do is visble, that their part in valuable initiatives is communicated to parents on a regular basis, and the value you place upon their work made explicit. Prospective parent and teacher governors need to see that you accept and support their representative role, and in the case of teachers that you are not too touchy about frank expression of opinions. You'll gain more than you lose from that tolerance.

We should all give realistic guidance about the commitment involved. If people join on the basis that it's a termly meeting and the carol concert, they may not stay that long! But don't forget to say how interesting schools are as well.

It's a good idea when you need a new parent governor to let the outgoing one produce a hand-written note (which you copy and send out, of course) to all parents, encouraging them to stand. Remember there are still homes where a formal typed communication is bad news.

And do set up a really well-planned and friendly induction process to avoid losing good governors. So many never really bed down because they feel left out of the in-jokes and in-words, the jargon, the relationships, never have anybody they feel free to ask idiot questions of, and so on.

Good luck.

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