2nd July 2004 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

I am a parent-governor who started with tremendous enthusiasm and am not one to give in easily. But lately the job has become a burden, and all the problems make me realise how easy it is to do the wrong thing and pay a high price for it.

The workload seems to get heavier every term, with more and more changes in regulations, shortages, dissatisfied parents, and the fact that heads not only don't seem to value what we do but wish we would go away. They are also unhelpful when we bring up parents' concerns.

I have been reading about the "remodelled" workforce policy, which will I am sure be helpful - eventually. But I am just thinking of all the aggro we shall get from parents.

We are in the firing line already because we can't get staff and parents complain continually about so many supply teachers. There are also all the niggles about individual children which I can never get a proper hearing for. Tell me why I should go on.

I wish you could remember when we had no parent-governors - or governors with any real say at all. That had caused much more frustration for parents.

But I don't expect you to carry on to express your debt to old campaigners, some now dead. There has to be a better answer when you are tired and frustrated.

Perhaps it is better to remember the times when you sat watching the school play or listening to the Christmas concert, and felt a tearful choke of pride in the school which all the aggro of being a governor had made more your own than it was as just another parent. You would miss that.

And here are a few tips to make things more bearable. I do sympathise with staff shortage niggles and the birth pangs of the new policy on workload.

But, ultimately, parents will be happier if, rather than relying too much on supply teachers - which is a problem - you make better use of the teachers we have and the new breed of assistants.

If the change is well thought-out and executed - a big "if" - it will bring benefits. But it must be well presented, and I hope you as a body watch that.

Heads prefer parents to bring issues directly to the school so try to redirect those who have concerns about particular children to the class teacher or head. However, make sure that you have a system that picks up worries that haven't been dealt with satisfactorily.

Concentrate on real policy issues, getting support for putting these on the agenda and remember to say nice things.

If you can, persuade your colleagues to introduce a brief weekly session when a staff member is available to hear individual parents' problems. This should work like magic to reduce parents' frustration.

Make sure the parent-teacher association is kept properly informed by the head or staff on important issues such as workforce reform. Don't try to carry all these burdens on your own. Involve other parent-governors, and colleagues with easier interests to represent: some may be only too pleased to leave the nagging to you - but that isn't right.

A compilation of Joan Sallis's columns has been published in Questions School Governors Ask. Copies are available at pound;7.95 from the TES bookshop. Call 0870 4448633 or see Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Fax 020 7782 3202 or see expert where answers to the submitted questions will appear

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