How much more can governors do?

28th August 2009 at 01:00

The article "Call for governors to get to grips with curriculum" (TES Cymru, August 14) suggested that governing bodies should be required to get involved in even more aspects of the work of schools. This raises the very question posed at the end by the Welsh Assembly member: are we are expecting too much from governors?

The suggestion that still more responsibility should be placed on governors illustrates once again the difference between what politicians believe is happening and what is actually happening.

Since governing bodies replaced local authorities in England and Wales as the main partners of government in the management and administration of the public education service, a system has been created based on the assumption that there are enough competent lay people willing to take on the onerous delegated responsibilities.

When questioned in the early 1990s on whether sufficient governors would be forthcoming, an education department official said it was an "act of faith". Subsequent experience suggests it still is.

There are many admirable people who have shown an impressive commitment of time, energy and expertise to their local schools, but many more seem to be there out of a sense of obligation or because they hold some other local office.

It can be difficult to recruit parent governors even in successful schools. Some schools struggle to fill vacancies, and some may never have had fully constituted governing bodies. Headteachers and local authorities report difficulty in persuading many governors to take up training opportunities, and union officials are well aware of the mess some governing bodies get into when dealing with personnel issues. In fact, local authorities may no longer have the level and quality of expertise needed to support governing bodies.

Yet the same expectations are placed on all, regardless of size, location and problems. Before adding to those expectations, the Assembly government should be assessing whether too much is being asked already.

John Till, Professional officer for Wales, Voice: the union for education professionals.

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