Dalton's Diary

20th September 1996 at 01:00
Like many other governing bodies, we are looking for new members this autumn. After a couple of years of amicable stability, two of our most experienced governors are leaving. One has been a governor ever since the school opened. She was originally co-opted to represent the village playgroup, but as the relevant child is now at secondary school, she feels it is time to move on.

The other departure is more worrying. The lady in question is one of the school's staunchest supporters. She chose the school for her children, works here as a classroom ancillary and in the office, supports the PTA and helps with extra-curricular activities. She has been a governor for five years, and has finally been driven out by the ever-increasing responsibilities.

She avoided finance committees, pay decisions, grievance panels and appointments boards, on the grounds that she did not have the necessary expertise. Nor do most of us. Threats of legal action against governing bodies who fail to send in their SATs results didn't help. We tried to reassure her that the responsibility is corporate not individual, but she decided enough was enough. She also thinks we do not spend enough time talking about things that really matter. I think she means children!

Both vacancies are co-options, and I hoped to use them to bring in governors from outside the school. Apart from the head and the teacher representative, only two of our governors are not parents of children here. This means the governing body is very committed to the school, but does not fulfil the requirement of representing the wider community.

When LMS was introduced, there was a rush to co-opt accountants, solicitors and business managers. In a small school like ours, this was never an option - we did not need them, and they were unlikely to be interested in us. What I tried to do this time round was to broaden our representation by bringing in people from other phases of education. I approached the playgroup first. They had asked for a representative of the school to join their committee, and one of our early years teachers volunteered. Perhaps they would reciprocate. They thought it was an excellent idea - in principle.

In practice, they are up to their eyes in preparation for nursery vouchers, equal opportunities policies, health and safety procedures, producing a prospectus and devising a curriculum in the light of "desirable outcomes for nursery education". Just like being a governor, and none of them has the time.

I also sounded out the teacher at our local high school responsible for primarysecondary transfer. She was all for it in theory. But she was already a parent governor at her children's school, and for someone with a full time job, one governorship is quite enough. Too right.

So it's back to the parents, and yes, with a little encouragement, we can find suitable candidates. I am sure they will be as hard working, intelligent and objective as their predecessors. I just can't help feeling that if schools were meant to be run by the PTA, the legislation would have said so.

Joan Dalton is a governor in the Midlands

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