9th April 1999 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

This is quite a poor area where few people have had the privilege of higher education, but as one of the lucky ones, I dislike the patronising way the head talks to, and about, governors. They elected me chair because nobody else felt confident enough to take it on, but they are a wonderful lot of people - sensible, will do anything for the school, care passionately about the children.

I have no problem, left to myself, in working with them. They understand the issues and make wise contributions.

The trouble is that often I'm not "left to myself". The head tries to draw me into his attitudes, and to conspire with me, if I can put it that strongly, to by-pass the rest whenever possible on the grounds that they aren't able to grasp difficult matters. He mostly wants me to talk things through with him and then draft something which we can put to governors for approval. I feel this puts me in a false position.

How lucky the rest of your colleagues are to have you. Yours isn't the only head who finds it easier to work closely with the chair and present the other governors with drafts and policies to rubber stamp. It not only usurps the corporate authority of the governing body but puts everyone in real danger. When worms turn they can upset the best-laid plans.

I believe you when you say that your governors have no difficulty understanding the issues. One doesn't need higher education to grasp the typical problems governing bodies face.

You must resist being drawn into a false relationship which excludes others. Insist on referring all policy issues to the governing body for discussion, and indicate to the head and your colleagues that they are capable of this.

But words alone won't raise their self-esteem. The next thing is to organise them into committees, working parties or drafting groups to tackle issues and needs that are still on the horizon, and make sure your head flags such issues and needs in his reports. Take care that they always get papers in time, not at the meeting, and go round the table before you assume agreement on any issue.

You might like to give individuals, in turn, an issue to present and get some teachers routinely into governors' meetings - and governors into teachers' meetings - to brainstorm policy at early stages. Your governors will soon gain confidence if you constantly show your own respect for them and your faith in their ability.

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