Baffled by 'paranoid' governor response

21st July 2000 at 01:00
WE were saddened by Roger Adcock's article (TES, July 7) on behalf of the National Governors' Council. The Campaign for State Education has always supported an enhanced involvement of parents in education decision-making.

We find it difficult to understand the NGC's paranoid response to parent-governor representatives. CASE hopes they will be a voice for parents at local and national level. We want to see a pyramid of consultation from classroom parents via school parent-governors to parent-governor representatives to local education authorities and then beyond to ministers - and back.

The Government has made it clear that parent-governor representatives (PGRs) are to represent all parents. Their use of parent-governors as a means of electing representatives was a pragmatic decision. Parents elect parent-governors who elect PGRs. In two very small LEAs the rules were to let the whole parent body vote for any nominated parent. The ability and enthusiasm of the PGRs from 50 LEAs attending a conference which CASE organised recently was very high indeed. They need information and encouragement - not carping.

We disagree with the proposition that the existence of PGRs undermines the "corporate" nature of governing bodies. Why should giving a few parent-governors in each LEA another job to do have this effect? Most other governors, being active community people, will have allegiances in some other organisation or interest group. Is it really so difficult to identify the primary interest of the school when contributing as a governor and remembering not to be blinkered bythe school perspective when contributing elsewhere? LEA governors are often councillors who may be required to vote in council to support decisions contrary to the interest of their school and the corporate view of the governing body.

Mr Adcock says that "a network of PGRs will not be a network of parents". Parent-governors are parents and the Government guidance encourages PGRs to consult parents in order to be an effective voice for all local parents. PGRs need the same access to information as councillors and practical support in enabling them to do their job of consulting parents. Sharing good practice through the new network will help.

We completely understand the frustration that governors' associations have not also been accorded rights of representation in the local government structure. Particularly so when some councils have taken the opportunity to remove existing governors' association representatives when their PGRs were appointed. But that is not a reason to see the role of PGRs as negative. We should be campaigning for governors' associations to have representation as well. Some governors' associations have co-opted PGRs which we welcome. The more routes that governors have to the corridors of power the better things should be for children, which is surely what we should be about.

The NGC should work with PGRs, which could potentially strengthen the council. The alternative is likely to diminish the standing and effectiveness of us all.

Alan Carter, Margaret Tulloch

Campaign for State Education

158 Durham Road, London SW20


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