Management presence at board meetings stops some teachers speaking their minds, reports Karen Thornton
A QUARTER of teacher-governors feel inhibited by their head's presence at board meetings; and a fifth feel so intimidated that they are unable to express their colleagues' views freely, new research suggests.
The finding has emerged from the first national survey of teacher-governors. One in eight of those surveyed said they felt like "second-class" governors.
Most respondents to the survey said they played a full and equal part in governing their schools, and nearly all sat on policy-making committees.
The research, based on 240 responses from teacher-governors from around the country, was carried out by Peter Earley, of London University's Institute of Education, and independent consultant Dr Michael Creese.
Their study says that, despite uncertainty about their role and a lack of training and experience, teacher governors are making an important contribution.
But it also concludes that the role of teacher-governor is underdeveloped in many schools. A particular concern is the number of teachers with no interest in the work of governors - more than half, say teacher-governors.
One in five said that their colleagues were resentful of what they saw as interference by the governing body.
The authors say the number of teacher-governors who are inhibited by the presence of their headteachers is also worrying.
There is a slight fear of heads, but mostly teacher-governors feel overwhelmed by their greater experience, knowledge, confidence and command.
"Teachers are concerned about getting on the wrong foot with the head, or are not quite sure that governors' meetings are the right forum for discussing the school's dirty laundry," says the study.
John Bangs, assistant general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the Governmet had helped to undermine teacher-governors with new regulations which exclude them from discussions about the pay and performance of individual members of staff.
He said: "That's a real sign that the Government thinks they are second-class. Yet teacher-governors have an incredible contribution to make, both in supporting heads and governors.
"They are a real resource to schools and a conduit to the classroom for governors."
A spokesman for the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, the second largest teaching union, said he was not surprised that teacher-governors felt intimidated by some headteachers.
"It's an inevitable result of some heads becoming over-enthusiastic about their new role as managers which they sometimes feel involves managing what teachers say and do, especially when other people are around."
There are around 25,600 schools in England and Wales - each with at least one teacher-governor.
WHAT TEACHER-GOVERNORS SAY
"I FEEL uncertain about my role as a teacher governor. I'm dealing with quite powerful people. I don't want to make trouble for myself..."
"I'M THERE to inform the lay governors about the school and to keep the senior management team honest. If they present a picture which disregards the views of a significant number of staff, then I present the contrary view.
"This is valued by the lay governors and when I talked about resigning, they persuaded me to stay on. They like to get a feel for what's going on at the grass roots."
"I FEEL inhibited most of the time, mainly due to ignorance about my role. Where should my allegiance be? To the head? To the governors?
"Sometimes, the head will say something that's not quite true but I feel my allegiance is to the school. I don't want to expose the school's weaknesses to outsiders."