Give your partner space

7th November 2003 at 00:00
I have a bone to pick with people in education who interchangeably use the words "governance" and "management".

Governors govern and headteachers and senior staff manage. Governors do not manage anything within schools though they are expected to carry out certain executive functions that have management features. They are involved in hiring and firing staff, determining staff salaries and reviewing the head's decision to exclude a pupil for a fixed term of more than five days in any one term or permanently.

In 1995, the then Department for Education's guidance to governors was issued, defining three critical functions that they were expected to carry out:

* constructing the strategy of the school;

* ensuring accountability;

* acting as the school's critical friends.

The new Office for Standards in Education framework mentions that the governing body will now be evaluated on:

* how it helps shape the school's vision and direction;

* how it ensures it fulfils its statutory duties, including policies in relation to special needs, race equality, disability and sex;

* whether it has a good understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the school; and

* how effectively it challenges and supports the senior management team.

These functions are not exclusively to do with governance, as the enlightened head and hisher team support the governing body in developing the vision and direction of the school, identifying the statutory duties with governors, giving information on the strengths and weaknesses, and providing each other with challenge and support. So the borders between governance and management continue to be blurred. At least, however, governors are clearer about what the inspectors will be seeking in them.

A school functions best when governing body and head work in partnership.

The starting point for such a relationship to develop is for the governing body and head to give the other space to do what each is supposed to do. So I suggest that governors become familiar with the term governance, and focus on Ofsted's definition and prescription. There is an onus on heads to enable governors to find room to exercise their responsibilities for the benefit of the school. This, I suggest, is where the leadership dimension comes into play. It can only strengthen the head's management functions, David Sassoon The author is a school governor. We welcome all contributions to Sounding Off and pay for any we publish: send to

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