4th April 2003 at 01:00
Our governors are planning an awayday in the summer term to discuss what to do about the new requirements to reorganise the size and membership of our governing body. We do not want to rush our decision or be too influenced by whatever is the big issue when it is imminent. What considerations apply to this choice? We are a community secondary school of 1,000 pupils, so now have the biggest-size governing body.

How very sensible to discuss this in as pressure-free an atmosphere as you can manage. It is important and you need time to consider the implications.

But first, here are a few questions about your present governing body so that you can think about how these affect the issue of size.

Would you say that, with your average attendance, everyone who wants to have a say does so? Is this your aim, or would you like to be a bit brisker? Is any group which might at any time be in a minority on an issue big enough to avoid isolation? Are there enough of you to deal with any threat of A and B teams? Can you easily find enough people for the committees you need, and do they work well, saving the governing body time but not appearing to "own" their subjects too much?

You also have to think about the balance of interests between different kinds of governor (the proportions are the same as at present, very roughly).

Think especially of the staff group, which has to be no more than one-third of the total, including the headteacher, with support staff no longer having representation as of right and no possibility of staff serving in any other capacity (for example, as a parent governor).

These questions are all about balance and teamwork, and size has a bearing.

I expect some very small schools will opt to go a bit bigger, feeling that nine members do not allow for co-opting an expert or two and covering all the tasks. Among bigger ones, a few who have serious trouble recruiting governors may be tempted (or persuaded) to go a bit smaller.

I hope all others will think very hard before going much smaller, bearing in mind also the new proposals on procedure. These, for instance, would allow the governing body to delegate almost all decisions to an individual or committee - and do remember that increasingly committees will contain non-governors.

There is even a suggestion that committees should decide their own quorum and voting rules, and that the minimum three full governing board meetings a year and seven days' notice for meetings and papers should be dropped.

All this makes committees very powerful, and you need a governing body which is able to hold the reins and has broad enough membership to satisfy the school community that it is open, representative and accountable.

Sometimes it is more important to leave all members and their constituents satisfied with a decision than to be utterly streamlined.

Please keep requests for private replies to a minimum. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205, or see:

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