28th November 2003 at 00:00
College governance is yet again at the top of the agenda, but while the Government is looking at it top-down, governors are looking bottom-up.

Last month the Government announced a detailed review of the role of governors. Chairs and principals were alarmed at the little time they had to respond. The review will look at subjects such as the size and composition of boards. Yet it seems that other issues are bothering governors.

As a report published today reveals (see FE Focus, page 1) governors are spending their time on financial and legal matters, but not giving sufficient attention to other important parts of their remit. Areas such as the curriculum, staffing, and estates are being sidelined.

Of course getting the funding right is paramount. Get it wrong and not much else will go right. Problems and the Learning and Skills Council may suddenly appear at your shoulder. But college boards must be more than servants of their paymasters. They have responsibilities to their staff, their students, their customers, their local communities, and sometimes to the region and beyond. They need feedback from their constituents not only because this is the only way to satisfy the customer, but also because such information is necessary to plan growth. They must not be confused about what is going on in their core business. Moreover, it appears that some college boards do not have reports on the standards of teaching within their college, or have reviews on courses. Decidedly odd.

Governors are hard-working, unpaid volunteers. They are a precious species and should be protected.

If they look closely at their own performance, assess their roles and plug the gaps, then boards can only become stronger. Strong enough to meet the Government's review head-on.

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