5th February 1999 at 00:00
I am the governor responsible for literacy. Recently the school was about to appoint a teacher to be in charge of the literacy programme and, assuming that I would be involved, I asked the head when the interviews would be taking place. She just said that it was not the practice for governors to attend interviews, which I accepted, being taken by surprise. Now on reflection I wonder how they can justify excluding me. The whole thing is ridiculous. Should I have insisted?

I agree it's ridiculous, but you can't fight it on your own as it goes back to whatever your governing body decided about how to fulfil its responsibility for staff appointments below the level of deputy. Probably they decided to leave all such decisions to the head or the chair and head, which is legal -though in my view highly undesirable - since as a body they remain responsible, however they delegate. This is probably what your head had in mind. I can vouch for the fact that many governors have no recollection of ever discussing such matters, much less remembering what they decided.

Even so, your head should have realised that the literacy appointment was a special case and considered either involving you or deciding in time to go back and get governors to look at the question.

I cannot emphasise too strongly how important it is for governors to review once a year the major issues involved in organising their work - things like committee structure and membership, arrangements for governors to see the school at work and involvement in appointments.

Some means of giving all or as many as possible of your governors the experience is desirable. You can link it to your system for attachment of governors if you have one. Link governors to a subject or class, use a duty governor of the month system, or do it alphabetically. Even if the chair undertakes to find a governor who is free on the day it's better than nothing.

I know many schools have a staffing committee which arranges it all and tries to ensure that at least some governors on that committee are sometimes free in school hours. I personally favour including more governors in the experience.

I think we are a reasonably efficient governing body and we work hard. But there is no-one to appraise us and I wonder whether we should more formally check up on ourselves to judge how effective we are. Is there any help available?

Unless your LEA has any help to offer I think it will have to be self-help, ie, team self-appraisal. There is a really excellent guide available for a governing body which wants to undertake this. It is very easy to use and carefully piloted by Suffolk LEA, which is using it within its own area and now offering it for general sale. I think single copies cost about pound;20 with special arrangements for bulk purchase.

Write to the Suffolk County Council Education Dept., St Andrew Hall, County Hall, Ipswich IP4 1LJ for the attention of Mike Arbon, county coordinator for Governor Training. The publication is called "Increasing the Effectiveness of Governing Bodies: a Guided Self Appraisal."

Send questions for Joan Sallis to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax 0171 782 3200.

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