Chairmen of the bored;Live issues;Governors;Briefing

12th November 1999 at 00:00
Ministers' response to the report by MPs on governors contains much that is worthy, says Karen Thornton - but they're going to find it dull reading.

Worse than that, says Bob Doe, below, is that we've heard most of the recommendations before...

"BORING, boring, boring..."

The Government's response to the Commons education select committee report on governors may have been given a more colourful spin today by schools minister stelle Morris - but the above was the initial reaction of at least one commentator.

Such documents can't help but be a little dull and repetitive as they respond, paragraph by paragraph, to the extensive recommendations of MPs.

But just because it's monotonous doesn't mean that the main governor organisations are objecting to its content - most of which is welcomed (particularly the endorsement of the committee's view that governors are "insufficiently appreciated" and have an "essential role" to play).

And tucked away amid the dry committee-speak are plenty of hints of bigger and glossier announcements to come.

Ms Morris' speech today will be followed by a business breakfast in the City later this month, where she is expected to launch the Government's plans for links between schools and businesses and "a high-profile recognition scheme" for companies involved in education. Business support for governorship will no doubt figure in those plans.

There has been a warm welcome for the Government's rejection of MPs' suggestion that governing bodies should be allowed to remove "rogue" members. Ministers have also earned Brownie points with their declaration of commitment to governor training and support (although, against the advice of MPs, new governors won't have to undertake induction training) and their promise to look again at the effectiveness of annual meetings with parents.

But the National Association of Governors and Managers and National Governors' Council remain unhappy about both MPs' and ministers' lack of enthusiasm for ring-fencing money for expenses - even though there is clear evidence that governors are not claiming legitimate expenses because they come out of school coffers. The concern is that those who cannot afford childcare or travel costs will feel unable to become governors.

The Institution for School and College Governors is also concerned about proposals for national accreditation of governor training turning into a bureaucratic nightmare.

Kim Garcia, chairman of Co-ordinators of Governors' Services, which represents mainly education authority governor trainers, wants to see a rigorous quality assurance framework for training.

"It must also reflect local aspirations and designs in a way that other work to do with school improvement does," he added.

And Felicity Taylor, ISCG's co-director, gave a cautious welcome to about a code of practice for governing bodies and headteachers - one of the few promises to come with a deadline.

The Government has said it will consult this term on regulations setting out the precise role of governing bodies, governors and headteachers. But Ms Taylor questions whether one set of guidelines will be able to cover all the different situations faced by schools.

"In the former grant-maintained schools, governors were practically running the whole thing but then there are little primary schools where they do whatever the head says. There's such a range, and it's very difficult to get a framework which applies to all governing bodies," she said.

Her concerns are shared by Pat Petch, outgoing chairman of the National Governors' Council.

"Flexibility will be the key. If it (the code) is over-prescriptive, it will act as a dead hand on governing bodies and how they work.

"The Government has highlighted the need for people to think innovatively, be creative and forward thinking. If you are going to ask people to work in this way, you need a framework and a model but not a prescriptive list."

Government's Response to the Fifth Report from the Education and Employment Committee: The Role of School Governors, price pound;3.40, available from Stationery Office bookshops and by telephoning 0345 023474.

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