Agenda;Briefing;Governors

2nd April 1999 at 01:00
I fear that a new governor is going to give us all a bad name. She started by standing at the gate seeking parents' views on the curriculum, the uniform, school rules, even the quality of the teachers.

She's also said she will call a general parents' meeting to discuss the findings. We've all been too stunned to respond, but I don't know whose job it is to put her straight or how to do it. She's been heard to say that we are a timid bunch.

I'm not the chairman or the head, just an ordinary governor. Our head is being very tolerant in the face of extreme provocation by a new parent governor. I believe in governors having a say, heads being accountable, and governors working as a team, and on all accounts we were, up until now, doing well.

I will assume you are not ineffective, and that your head is one of those rare people who is mature enough to take a new governor's well-meaning excesses in her stride, in which case you are very lucky and owe it to her to help incorporate your new colleague without damage.

I also assume that there is no seething pot of parent unrest just waiting to be revealed: if there were, you would bear some responsibility. I would guess that the new governor is hard-working and enthusiastic and will be a great colleague once she learns how to work within the team. But it is tricky.

Whoever speaks to her - and it could be your chair or an experienced parent governor, in the framework of a welcome-to-the-team meeting not a reprimand - needs to leave her feeling wanted and motivated, not rejected, so that you can dissuade or divert her from further indiscretions.

If you opt for dissuading, start by accepting that it is right for parent governors as a group to want to represent parents. But she must also understand that governors don't work in isolation and that a scatter-gun approach may not be the best way to alert governors of parents' concerns.

Your spokesperson must also say something about the framework within which governors corporately work, and demonstrate that if there were any widespread parent concern it could be put on the agenda.

An example or two of parent concerns which have been satisfactorily dealt with in this way would be worth an hour of preaching, and it would be helpful to include also examples of strategic decisions designed to improve the school's performance. (If you can't think of such examples you need to ask why.) But dissuasion is a hazardous option, and diversion could be better. You must have your annual meeting with parents some time in the next seven or eight months.

Couldn't your chair convince this new governor that you have there a potentially superb legal means of increasing parental influence which sadly has been little exploited, perhaps because the focus has been on reporting about the past rather than flagging future needs and issues which parents could influence.

Might your parent governors perhaps be asked to consider how this change of focus could be achieved and form a planningeditorial group for the report and the meeting? Or is there a similar issue or event where they could take a lead?

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