Governors say pay up or ease off

22nd September 2000 at 01:00
Survey shows governing bodies feel overburdened and undervalued, Karen Thornton reports.

SCHOOL governors are becoming increasingly cynical about government initiatives with attitudes hardening towards their myriad responsibilities.

They feel as overburdened with unnecessary paperwork as classroom teachers, according to a TES-commissioned survey.

Many told the National Association of Governors and Managers, which carried out the survey, that they should have their responsibilities reduced - or be paid.

Next week the Labour party conference will discuss a new policy document which proposes "pilot packages of support and allowances for school governors". Details will be announced later.

Such a change would be a victory for governors' organisations, which have long argued that members do not claim expenses they are entitled to because the money comes direct from school budgets.

Magistrates receive expenses, while non-executive NHS directors are paid up to pound;5,140 a year. And the charity CSV says governors contribute 62 million unpaid hours a year. (TES, August 25).

The Department for Education and Employment welcomed the survey, of 270 governors. It has been looking at governor responsibilities, and will consult its advisory group on proposals due for wider consultation "in due course". Any significant changes would require legislation.

Around 350,000 governors in England and Wales are responsible or key strategic issues such as budgets and setting academic targets. But recruitment is suffering, with 270 out of 600 schools reporting board vacancies in a recent survey by London University's Institute for Education.

The good news for ministers is that governor support for performance management has increased. Half now think they should draw up school policies on performance management, compared to 40 per cent last year, and 63 per cent (up from 55 per cent) believe they should appraise their head.

However, governors increasingly want rid of responsibilities for staff promotion, discipline and appointments, health and safety, curriculum and pupil behaviour.

Support for strategic and policy-making roles has increased. More than 80 per cent believe they should establish the school's aims and policies, selecting the head, monitoring the budget, drawing up the development plan, deciding special needs policies and providing links to parents.

John Adams, NAGM's chairman, said: "The bulk of my correspondence is from governors who complain about there being too great a load. Responsibilities have been added to, piecemeal, while nothing has been taken away."

A DFEE spokesman said: "We are very encouraged to see governors' views on performance management are more positive.

"Changes already announced on reducing the amount of paperwork going into schools should make a difference."

Governors, 33

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