Don't blame governors - it's the councils' fault

29th November 1996 at 00:00
The blame for poor training of governors rests squarely with the local education authorities, argues David Richards.

I heartily agree with Huw Thomas (TES, November 1). It is scandalous that "any fool" can get appointed as a governor by local authorities. But is it an indictment of governing bodies that this happens or of the local authorities that allow it?

If local politicians are determined to inflict on schools governors whose main qualification is membership of the right politicial party rather than goodwill and commitment to schools, is it any wonder that they are ill-prepared for the governors' role?

In some authorities there are not even enough party faithful to go round. The result is either that local authority places remain vacant or that they are filled in a nominal capacity by councillors or others who are unwilling or unable to commit the time and energy now required to be a proper governor.

Sensible authorities acknowledge these difficulties. They recruit governors who are broadly representative of their communities, who have important skills and insights to offer and who are prepared to put the interests of schools and pupils above any particular political leaning.

And if governor preparation and practice is deficient, whose fault is that? Education authorities, not governing bodies, have the legal duty to ensure that governors receive necessary support and training.

That is not a tilt at governor trainers. Many of them do as good a job as is possible within their diminishing resources. Some even do their best to provide support and encouragement despite the fact that their authority sidelines governors or treats them as the opposition because officials or councillors are wary of the powers they wield.

Yet those who argue that governors' powers should be reined-in seem to want to return those functions to local councils - remote authorities with less understanding of the local circumstances. The very same authorities are responsible for the fact that governors on the spot cannot do their job of holding schools to account because they do not give governors the information, advice and support that they should provide.

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