Mary Wallis-Jones has been an education authority governor in Camden, London, since l974, and is a member of the National Governors' Council's executive. She is on the boards of two schools; Chalcot special school for boys with emotional and behavioural difficulties, and Toriano infants.
What made you want to be a governor?
It was a traditional thing, my parents and grandparents did it. I was interested in education and it also was a matter of public service. I'd been at London schools and knew the area well.
Has the experience fulfilled your expectations?
It has changed so much in the past 25 years. It has become more and more satisfying. The job of the board is to have strategic responsibility, and as a critical friend play a role in managing the budget so that it's used to maximum effect. We are also there to promote the progress of all the children. It's useful for heads to have a lay view available. Most boards have specialist people on them. I find it very useful to have an architect!
What dodon't you like?
The hardest things are setting and reviewing targets with the head, and to see where the school's going strategically. Getting involved with staff discipline is difficult, but on the other hand making a decision witout having a vested interest is the main value of governors.
What is the biggest, best or worst change you've seen in your time as a governor?
We dreaded local management of schools, but it was a very good thing. But I don't approve of further delegation, some small schools are too small to manage everything and I don't understand the rationale for it. Local authoriities are very important for promoting school improvement. Although we fight Camden for money, they do consult us, and there is a collegiate atmosphere.
What does your family think of your commitment?
They get a bit fed up with it. My son used to complain when he was younger that I was always going to meetings.
If you could wave a wand, what would you wish for the school?
Capital for building, for both schools. The special school has a small cramped hall and we really need an indoor gym area.
Who or what would you make disappear?
Woodhead's gone, so whoever's behind the latest proposals on new roles for governing bodies, the efficiency task force. I think their proposals are a big mistake.
Who would be your fantasy governor?
At Chalcot, it would be Tony Blair, so that he get acquainted with the day-to-day reality of social exclusion.