28th May 1999 at 01:00
We have committees on finance, staffing, premises, student welfare, but none on the curriculum. I questioned this because it seemed to me to be essential now that governors are clearly responsible for academic improvement. Our head said that it was not proper to have a curriculum committee.

I let this pass because I was taken aback. Did he mean that the curriculum was still the secret garden? I am baffled.

All I know is that we need to understand the curriculum better and there is simply not time at governors' meetings to ask questions and to have teachers visit to explain things. Please advise.

I doubt very much whether a head these days would claim that the curriculum was a professional preserve. I think it much more likely that your head knew that governing bodies cannot delegate actual decisions on curriculum matters, so that strictly speaking you could not call what you set up a committee.

It is true that a curriculum group (whatever you call it, and I have nothing against calling it a committee though many purists do object) cannot decide anything (that is laid down in regulations), but it is essential that a governing body has a group looking at the curriculum. Indeed I'd say that it was your most vital activity.

Such a group is invaluable in assembling facts and arguments for any decision that must be made and presenting it in an ordered form to the full governors' meeting. It is also a way of finding out how the school's learning programme works and giving the other governors the benefit of this knowledge, which can only be gained in a less pressurised atmosphere than a business meeting can offer.

In our school I would say without question that our curriculum group makes a crucial contribution to governors' decisions. We get different members of staff in turn to talk about their areas of work and we can question them.

When issues which require decisions are just on the horizon we study them and find out what the options are. We are then able to prepare them in good time for a decision by the governing body. We analyse the exam and test results fully so that we can recommend appropriate intervention to improve them still further.

It is also a great way for new governors to find out about the school's central activity. And because our committees and groups are open to all our governors, only excepting personnel or disciplinary items which could lead to an appeal, we get many visits from other governors.

Talk to your head again. Show that you understand that such a group couldn't be a committee in the sense of a body with power to make decisions, but make the case for a curriculum working party as a learning base and a means of preparing material for governors' action.

Without such preparation, the governing body might make a poor decision or one to which governors other than the teachers cannot make much contribution.

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