Governors reeling after ministerial attack

12th July 2012 at 16:10
School governors were left reeling at the end of last week following a withering attack by Michael Gove on "local worthies" who "ramble on about peripheral issues".

During a speech in which the education secretary spoke of the need to accelerate reforms to school governance, he hit out at examples of bad practice among some school governing bodies which he compared to "19th century parochial church councils".

"A sprawling committee and proliferating sub-committees. Local worthies who see being a governor as a badge of status not a job of work.

"Discussions that ramble on about peripheral issues, influenced by fads and anecdote, not facts and analysis. A failure to be rigorous about performance. A failure to challenge heads forensically and also, when heads are doing a good job, support them authoritatively," he said.

Unsurprisingly governors and their representatives have hit back.

Sean Whetstone, a governor at Polesden Lacey Infant School in Surrey and author of the School Governing blog, questioned Mr Gove's criticism of large governing bodies. "I am not sure that everyone agrees smaller governing bodies are the way forward," he said.

He also called on Mr Gove to "put his money where his mouth is" and provide more funds for supporting and training governors.

Stephen Adamson, chairman of the National Governors' Association and chair of governors at Wensum Junior School in Norfolk, said Mr Gove's description was not a fair depiction of the majority of governing bodies.

"There are poor governing bodies, just like there are poor heads and poor maths teachers, but I don't think there are anything like the numbers it might seem from the way Mr Gove put it," he said. Mr Adamson added that self-interested governors looking to raise their profile through being a governor are "few and far between".

Related stories

Lord Hill, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for schools, on why we should celebrate governors not condemn them

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors's Association, expresses her surprise at Michael Gove's recent comments about governors

Read the conversation on the TES Governors forum about Gove's recent verbal attack on governors


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today