Briefing;Governors;Letters

11th June 1999 at 01:00
We had a full postbag in answer to Michael Smith's objections to governors' increasing responsibilities, and responding to the call from Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, to restrict the powers of governors (TES, May 21). Here is a selection: * Another angle

While I agree with Michael Smith that devising school policies can place a heavy clerical burden on clerks, he overlooks the educative value to both school staff and governors. Both sides learn a great deal about each other and their school.

On health and safety issues, governors can sometimes see dangers which others have missed; parent-governors have worthwhile things to contribute about pupil sanctions, and so on. New governors in particular can discover through policy discussions a great deal about how their school runs. To have only education authority policies might well remove a useful tool.

John Partington, High Road, South Wingfield, Derbyshire

* 'Amateur' is a slur

Michael Smith is very wrong about governors. Governors may not be paid for the voluntary work that they do in school, but they are certainly not "amateur" in their attitudes to that work.

Mr Smith surely has a gripe with the authorities, and not with governors themselves. A lot of very dedicated people work very hard as governors. Most importantly, governors bring to the education system valuable insight from their own professions and experiences.

Lucia Chaplin, Co-opted governor, Linden primary school, Evington, Leicester.

* Not just overseers

Doug McAvoy of the NUT argues that governors overstep their powers. But a few examples do not build a convincing case.

Similar generalised criticism of teachers would be condemned by the NUT, so why does he feel able to inflict it on those of us who are governors? Sadly, he appears never to have read Joan Sallis's excellent weekly column, or he would have realised that there are also heads and senior staff who overstep the mark, and in so doing make it difficult for governors to find their proper role.

Mr McAvoy describes governors as overseers, rather than implementers, and says that they have a key role in representing local communities. Oversight and representation must not be passive roles. Finding the right way of being active is not easy. Some governors do not properly understand where their role ends and that of management begins. But perhaps some heads do not know, or do not respect, where their role ends, and that of governors begins.

Virtually all governors are enormously supportive of their schools, while carrying out a difficult, unpaid task. Education can do without heated arguments like those from the NUT - let's have some light, please.

Michael Sanderson, Strafford Avenue, Elsecar, Barnsley

* Help at hand

You report attacks by Doug McAvoy on governors who exceed their role, particularly on school visits. The National Association of Governors and Managers has produced guidelines on how visits should be handled, which have been republished this March, and are available from NAGM, 21 Bennets Hill, Birmingham B2 5QP.

Peter Smith, Executive committee, NAGM

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