Facing up to the trickle-down

20th December 1996 at 00:00
It's been a funny old term. The big issues rumble on, and we governors meet and deliberate on the county's review of the LMS formula and how we are going to handle nursery vouchers. We review policies, revise the prospectus, integrate our new governors - but it's the things which have made us laugh that stick in the mind and make it all worthwhile.

We have taken the lead in our village in trying to make sense of the nursery vouchers scheme. We hope we have evolved a coherent approach between the private nursery, the playgroups and the three primary schools that will allow parents best use of their vouchers without a radical upheaval in practice. We do not wish to raise expectations we cannot continue to meet if the scheme is scrapped after the first year. But we are aware that all our careful planning may be severely tested when we are faced with hordes of parents armed with their vouchers. One canny mother has already worked out that her voucher will be worth significantly more than the pittance her playgroup charges her. "So you'll be giving change, then?" she asked.

Even the LMS review provided a little light relief. I was completely bewildered by the word "Salmon" at the end of a particularly complex paragraph in the consultation paper. I thought I had mastered education acro-nyms, but this one defeated me - until I realised it referred to the colour of the enclosed explanatory paper.

School security has been a big issue, too. Our school is now a fortress. The staff complained about not being able to get in when they arrived in the morning, and campaigned for duplicate keys for the main door.

Their demands were given extra point when the last teacher out one Friday night, arms full of work for the weekend, pushed the door shut with a flick of the hip and trapped herself by her skirt - pure attention-seeking.

The school's overstretched budget is a constant worry for governors, but one can go too far in monitoring day-to-day outgoings. On my way home from a governors' meeting, I was alarmed to hear the sound of water trickling on the school side of the hedge. A leak our side of the meter could be expensive. I got down on my hands and knees to peer under the hedge and saw a small stream appearing. On either side of it was a large trainer, each topped by a denim-clad leg. I allowed my gaze to rise no further, but scrambled to my feet and beat a hasty retreat.

There have been stories I have been unable to tell because they were too painful or too personal. Others have been blocked by circumstances or outside agencies. The additional inspector I hoped to interview was told by OFSTED not to talk to the press (me!) and the promised travellers' story also failed to materialise.

When my head teacher alerted me to the fact that we were expecting an influx of travellers' children, she warned me to expect a flood of parental complaints. She comforted me with: "At least you'll be able to write about it." In the event, the children were delightful, their support teachers were very enthusiastic about our school and the welcome they received, and not one parent protested. Now, where are the column inches in that?

Joan Dalton is a governor in the East Midlands.

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