Governing bodies should not be monitoring classroom teaching. But they should be making sure that someone is, says the independent governor training and support group, the Institution of School and College Governors, in its latest advice on the governors' role in school inspections, writes Bob Doe.
Different governing bodies react differently to an Office for Standards in Education inspection, it says. Some use it as a yardstick and tool for improvement. Others view it as a weapon used again the school to inflict pain and damage.
"Change is not an enemy and it is part of the governing body's role to foster a climate where it is accepted that change can be for the better."
Successful governors helped to manage the transitions involved. "Good governing bodies take a positive attitude to the inspection and help the head and staff work through fears and concerns."
But the paper, based on the findings of a seminar of governors, heads and inspectors hosted by ISCG, recognises that balancing their monitoring and supporting roles is crucial to governor effectiveness. "Getting the information governors need without intervening in professional judgments is no easy task, and requires great skill, tact and diplomacy."
On many governing bodies it was a battle between the Rhino (really here in name only) governors and Hippos (high-input power-performing professionals) who often overstepped the mark and caused severe disruption.
The ISCG paper also raised questions about the inspection of the governors' work. There was a shift in emphasis from inspection for governors to inspection of them. Not many governing bodies were prepared for the crucial question about how they ensured their school provided value for money. The yardsticks for measuring value were too crude for governors to draw many useful conclusions. The correlation between money available, money spent and school performance could not easily be made by a band of volunteers often with only patchy information available to them.
The official Framework for Inspection needed to state clearly what was expected of governors and what criteria they should use to judge value for money. Inspectors needed training in a more uniform approach to governors and greater clarity about governing bodies was needed in inspection reports.
Inspection - a weapon or a tool, a post mortem or a health check is published as The Governors' Analysis Paper Number 4 (price Pounds 3) from ISCG, Avondale Park School, Sirdar Road, London W11 4EE. Tel: 0171 229 0200; fax: 0171 229 0651