External influence

26th September 2003 at 01:00
Nigel Gann has provided a useful performance management checklist for governors (TES, September 12). I am amazed, however, that in trying to guide "amateur" governors (his term), he fails to mention the role of the external adviser. External advisers were created by the Department for Education and Skills for precisely the purpose of assisting, to use Mr Gann's words again, "anyone not intimately involved in the world of education". The support to governors provided by external advisers, at no cost to the school, is one of the success stories of performance management. Advisers are there to coach and provide professional advice (in writing in advance of the review meeting and verbally on the day) to governors while leaving the actual decisions to them. They have always reminded governors of the need to consider the head's overall performance and not be mesmerised by objectives. Following intense initial training, advisers are thoroughly briefed annually by the contractor, Cambridge Education Associates. In briefings for the current round, the need to focus governors on the head's overall performance was highlighted to advisers.

Furthermore, the majority of governors (in my experience as head, external adviser, performance management consultant, appointed governor and governor trainer) do not come to the process unprepared. Many have considerable experience of appraisal from their own workplace. All are keen to utilise the process to further continuing improvement for their schools. Most local authorities offer regular training on the process. In Hertfordshire, my own authority, courses are offered to individual governing bodies, as well as groups, at central venues and are well supported.

Mr Gann is right to point out that inspectors will require evidence of the link between performance management and continuing school improvement. In my view, he underestimates the knowledge and skills of governors and fails to acknowledge the pivotal role of external advisers in this highly valuable process.

Chris Romney

15 St Michaels Avenue

Hemel empstead


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