Gladitorial passions

19th May 1995 at 01:00
Reva Klein meets the new chair of the National Association of Governors and Managers. Despite his first name, the new chair of the National Association of Governors and Managers (NAGM) does not gad about in chariots wearing a short dress and knee-high sandals. He is more the waistcoated, tweed jacketed type.

While eternally grateful for the slip of his mother's pen when registering his birth that allowed him to escape the fate of a common or garden Adrian, Hadrian Southorn is about as imperious as a personnel officer at Dover Harbour Board, which is exactly what he was until three years ago when a serious accident at work led to his early retirement.

But like his illustrious namesake (76-138 AD), Southorn has a strong commitment to public service. As well as being a governor for the past seven years and having served as vice-chair of NAGM under Peter Morris for the last three, he is also the chair of three charitable trusts and an active member of his church.

He first became a parent governor at his daughters' school, Dover Grammar, on the sugggestion of the headteacher. "After that, I suppose the bug struck me."

He went on to become a local authority governor at the same school and at Deal primary, and became involved in the Kent association of NAGM where he served as vice-chair for several years.

As new supremo, Southorn's most pressing priority is the swift collection of data from NAGM membership on the effects of funding cuts that will, with information from the National Governors Council's members, be submitted to education ministers.

The partnership with the NGC is necessary to fight the good fight, but has its pitfalls.

"The NGC membership structure, whilst very democratic in principle, has some fundamental flaws. It's clearly impossible, for instance, to get replies to submit to the Government from thousands of governing bodies in a fortnight. "

Still, the spirit of co-operation, despite differences of opinion on certain issues, ensures strength in numbers. Could this partnership lead NAGM and the NGC down the aisle to tie the knot one day? A flash of the Centurion blazes in Southorn's eye. "I see there being dialogue between us. We have many points of common ground.

"But I don't see NAGM, NGC and the Action for Governors Information and Training (AGIT) going into a melting pot and coming out like three trade unions joining together and becoming Unison."

Outgoing NAGM chair Peter Morris has witnessed Southorn's flashes of gladiatorial passion, too, and sees a place for it in the NAGM leadership.

"He's a quiet man until he's confronted by fools or propositions that are patently flawed. Then his hackles are raised and he has a go. He is forthright in his presentation but a gentle man, a gentleman who is liked throughout the governors and teachers' association world.

"He is also a thinking man, very knowledgeable, who has put together our constitution and rules and steered us through our application for charitable status.

"I have no doubt that he'll take NAGM forward."

One priority is the association's communication problem. "Head office has to send out more information to our membership than it is doing at the moment. One of the criticisms of members is that they're not getting enough," says Hadrian Southorn. A more reader-friendly NAGM magazine is already pointing in the direction of improvement. But more direct contact and advice is needed - especially since the organisation's 1,000-member expansion over the past year.

As vice-chair, Hadrian Southorn clocked up 20,000 miles last year alone on governors' business. Does he mind all the work?

"Being chair is certainly not an honorary sinecure. It's a hard taskmaster. But the reward is the satisfaction of helping fellow governors in their struggle to provide decent education to pupils.

"It is true, though, that at 5am standing at Deal railway station when it's cold and wet, I do wonder if it wouldn't be better to be at home in my nice warm bed."

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