24th April 1998 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q One of our governors has done some kind of training course where she lived previously, quite a formal one I understand with a certificate at the end. Of course we are only too grateful for any expertise and would all accept this lady's advice on matters of law and good practice. Unfortunately she seems to think she has also to over-rule everybody on questions of tactics and indeed plain right and wrong. We no longer talk around things in an open way. Some of us do have local knowledge of the school and its people that we believe counts for something.

A You have discovered why I find it hard to come down on one side or the other in any argument about "qualifications"for governors. On the whole I welcome anything that raises the status of governance and provides governors with more chances to improve their knowledge and develop their skills. I fear, however, that it can be divisive if those concerned are not mature enough to realise how little, at best, anybody knows about this difficult task we share, and who accept the principle of the equality of governors as partners. As you say, local knowledge and familiarity with the school and the people are important too, and so is the amazing range of experience of life which a good team brings to the task.

I believe your new colleague will see this for herself as time goes on, and I don't think it's yet a case for a "serious talking to" by the chair. It is a challenge to all of you to demonstrate your commitment to teamwork. You can, for instance, more consciously encourage those colleagues who are overawed by qualifications and draw them out; ask your chair or an experienced member from time to time to take you through the main issues in and local background to a problem you have to solve; be more formal about going round the table for contributions and more explicit about referring to the special knowledge and experience individuals have and appreciative of their views.

As for your new colleague, be pleasant and appreciative, but do not shrink from pointing out if necessary that there are other considerations she has missed, or from stressing the corporate nature of the task.

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