Dalton's Diary

14th April 1995 at 01:00
My governing body is united. intelligent, well-informed, conscientious, loyal and supportive. So why am I writing a governors' code of conduct?

Well, imagine trying to write one for governors who were divided, disaffected, mutually suspicious, power-hungry and critical of the school. Any attempt to impose rules under those circumstances could only make matters worse, with every constructive suggestion being taken as a personal insult.

What I am trying to do now is codify and consolidate existing good practice for the benefit of future governors and the school: and to provide a slightly more formal basis for relationships between staff and governors in situations where this is appropriate. Many of us are parents of children at the school, the teachers are our friends, but perhaps we need some ground rules for when we have our governors' hats on.

Sticking to my golden rule of no more than one side of A4 on any subject, I have covered meetings, visits, confidentiality and complaints.

People have no stamina these days. I am at my best about 11pm, but most of my colleagues are yawning ostentatiously by 10. So short, efficient meetings are required, which means that all papers go out in advance and are read before the meeting. Points should be made briefly, substantial items must be put on the agenda, not raised under any other business, and individual parent's or children's grievances must never be discussed unless previously agreed.

Collective responsibility for decisions is a difficult concept. We try for consensus, but sometimes back off from confrontation with a vociferous minority on specific issues, rather than push for a majority vote. Must try harder.

staff are not keen on us "dropping in". We should give notice of our visits, and try to focus them on some particular pastoral or curricular area, reading the appropriate policies in advance so we know what to look for. We should be unobtrusive, join in with the work of the class and never, ever comment on or criticise the teacher in front of the class. This is a hanging offence. Reports that are to go to the governing body should be shared with the teacher first.

Most of us are aware of the importance of confidentiality, but the friendly informality of a small village primary like ours can make us rather casual. But the very fact that everybody knows everybody else makes it specially important that we do not reveal information about individual families or teachers. Secrecy is a different matter - the concerns and decisions of the governing body should be widely discussed and opinion canvassed.

While we must never feed gossip, listening to it can be a prime function of effective governors. Wild rumours can be contradicted, and genuine widespread concerns can be picked up and passed on to the headteacher. Governors should essentially be a channel for complaints, but always directing the grievance towards the staff rather than trying to solve it themselves. Appeal to the governing body should be a last resort.

So what have I missed? The trouble with working with such a splendid bunch of governors is that there must be all sorts of violations and abuses of power I have not even thought of. Would someone with a really awful governing body like to tell me what to tell mine not to do - before they do it?

* If you have a suggestion - or a code of conduct for your own governing body - send it to The Governors Page, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY.

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