Held to ransom by public

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Take a look at the faces at your next full governing body meeting. A group of well-meaning adults or a band of megalomaniacs?

Being a governor is probably one of the most challenging voluntary jobs you can do. So who would want to be one?

Many governing bodies consist of well-meaning parent representatives who want to contribute to the school or members of a local community who see being a governor as extended citizenship. These are the people we need on governing bodies; the well-meaning and the altruistic. These people work well with the school leadership, They are encouraging and challenging and are there for you in a crisis.

But do you also have the aspiring politicians, challengers for your headship, and plain troublemakers? It is amazing how easily the balance can tip from the good to the bad types.

In fact, every time you hold an election of parent or staff governors or co-opt a member of the community you are playing "Russian roulette". There are no checks and balances, no way to remove troublesome governors from the governing body.

Such people can have a pernicious, cancerous effect; not only damaging where theytouch but spreading and infecting others. You will find that your well-meaning, altruistic governors leave, unable and unwilling to yield to their negativity. So you hold more elections and risk more damage.

The unease and mistrust that these megalomaniac governors create can destroy the relationships between all staff and governors. It can destroy your formerly safe circle of support and challenge.

If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in such a position you will be shocked at how hard it is to change. It is your duty to work with them, to be responsible to them and for them, to be their professional adviser.

You have no way out, there are no rules and no sanctions for the actions of errant governors. It is symptomatic of our under-resourced education system that schools and staff can be held to ransom by troublemaking members of the public. In no other profession would we allow people with disparate backgrounds, and motives, to monitor and make decisions with no consequences for damaging behaviour.

So when you have your next election or co-opt a new governor be careful when releasing the safety catch... the bullet could be meant for you!

Melanie Henderson is head of Catshill first school and nursery in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. Are you a school leader or governor who feels strongly about something? We pay for all Soundings Off we publish. Please send to susan.young@tes.co.uk

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