Eight answers to the central question

13th June 2003 at 01:00
David Marriott on a new title aimedat primary school governors

The responsibilities of school governors are very largely the same in the primary and secondary sectors, but the experience often feels significantly different.

Most governors serve primary schools, so the idea of a handbook specifically for that audience is a good one and could be a special selling point.

The declared aim of the book is to show what it is like being a governor rather than about governance. Does it succeed?

The answer depends on which of the eight authors wrote the chapter in question. This reads like a book written by a committee, or rather, the members of a committee who are not speaking to each other.

The book is no greater than the sum of its parts but good overall and sometimes excellent. It covers all the necessary bases - the governing body, the curriculum, school improvement, staffing, premises and so on.

It could serve as a useful guide for committees as well as a general manual for any primary governor or headteacher.

Each contributor has many strengths and considerable experience relevant to his or her chapter. The chapters on the curriculum and parents are very good indeed.

The section on parents is packed with practical suggestions and strategies, and is clearly based on daily reality. It gives a pungent flavour of what it is like to be a governor. If all the other writers wrote in a similar style, the book would be much more useful.

To varying degrees, the other chapters rely too heavily on describing all the things that governors have to do, albeit supported from time to time with practical tips and examples.

As such, it does not differ sufficiently from the many other governors'

guides in the marketplace: it is largely about governance in the end, not about what it is like to be a governor.

There are also several inconsistencies between chapters, some repetition and some omissions.

However, it is very readable and well-designed and comes with a CD-Rom containing templates that crop up in each chapter. These are a welcome bonus and readers should find them useful.

If you are looking for a good general guide to primary school governance, you could do a lot worse. If only it had lived up to its ambitions, it would have turned out to be an essential purchase.

David Marriott is head of Wiltshire County Council's governor support and author of "The Effective School Governor", published by Network Educational Press,tel: 01785 225515."The Governor's Handbook: The Complete Guide to Being a Primary School Governor", edited by Graham Reeves, is published by pfp publishing, ISBN 1874050546, price pound;15,tel: 0870 241 0731

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