The 350,000 citizens serving on governing bodies contribute a wealth of experience to schools. The mix of knowledge, understanding and skills on every governing body is different, so there can be no set path along which to travel. The whole thrust of governance is focused on school improvement, and the governing body is part of the school, so it too needs to set targets and plans for continuing governor development.
Governors are familiar with continuing professional development for teachers. A part of every school's budget is allocated to CPD, but governors argue that spending money on their own development is somehow denying the children. Yet school improvement requires governors to travel the development path too.
If new governors are to play their part quickly, they need support in understanding their roles and responsibilities. Supporting development with a governor handbook and mentor is a start. Most local authorities offer a new governor training programme, which is a must for all recruits. Not only does it impart the necessary knowledge and understanding of the three governor roles - strategic, critical friend and accountability - but it also builds confidence in being able to fulfil them.
A common training experience enables a governing body to share and explore ideas and plan for improvement. For Musbury Primary's governors, next term it will be on understanding RAISEonline statistics so we can appreciate where to target resources to improve attainment.
Governors need reference materials as do teachers. A starting point is a collection of local authority newsletters. Check out the National Governor Association website (www.nga.org.uk) where for a modest membership fee a governing body can regularly receive publications with the latest information, training programmes and book reviews. Dip into 15-minute governor programmes on Teachers TV for an update on performance management, for example, or to stimulate discussion on a range of issues.
Carol M Woodhouse, Chair of governors, Musbury Primary, Devon.