Agenda

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
I recently took over the headship of a delightful village school in a large village with a good proportion of professionals employed in the nearby large town.

My predecessor set great store by community involvement and carried her views further than I think wise.

I feel that my role is compromised by interference in professional issues.

Our governing body often over-steps the line between governance and management.

All sorts of policy issues are debated in meetings of parents a couple of times a term. Debates about proposed changes in starting and finishing times are one example, also long discussions about proposals to reorganise age groups in different classes, curriculum changes, national test results.

These are all professional matters in my view.

This is a long way from the sort of community interest I am accustomed to, and I find it rather oppressive. My staff and I have been trained to make wise decisions, and I don't expect these decisions to be challenged unless our standards fall.

Am I unreasonable? We get excellent parental support for the school's ethos and amazing fund-raising.

I guess you came from an area where people in general were less interested in their children's schooling and more likely to accept that the school couldn't ever be wrong. Your predecessor seems to have found that in this school's social setting a high degree of community interest worked to her advantage.

I hope that you will enjoy equal support from your village. Whenever I hear about parents raising "amazing" funds I mutter "no taxation without representation" under my breath. In other words, there is a price. But your parents also, it seems, give their time and their thoughts to the school, so you risk a great deal if you jeopardise the relationship which the previous head and her governors have built up.

I know that parents sometimes overstep the line between legitimate interest and interference in the teaching methods, teacher performance and development and classroom practice which I hope your governors accept are professional preserves. But starting and finishing times are compulsorily subjects for consultation, national test results are a legitimate matter for discussion, and curriculum changes and especially changes in age groupings within classes are red rags to many otherwise quiescent bulls in parent communities, and cause unrest if not properly presented and debated.

It is both healthy and prudent to have provision for explanation and comment. In the long run, the kind of interested parents you speak of will tend to choose schools where they have a say.

The TES welcomes your queries. Joan Sallis does her best to answer all letters, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum, since we aim to provide helpful information for ALL readers and always protect the identity of schools and individuals. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0207 782 3202, or see www.tes.co.uk governorsask_ the_expert

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