I would like to be a...teacher governor

13th January 2006 at 00:00
Teacher governor. AKA...

I staff representatives, or staff liaison officers. Teacher governors in most schools are elected. In many, the position goes to one of the union representatives; in others, a senior and trusted member of staff may hold the post. The new academies may have no staff representation on the governing body.

Expect a lot of... ... meetings. Not just the governors' meetings, but also the uncomfortable tete-a-tetes with the head that follow those occasions when you were rash enough to wander off message. Confident and capable heads should not feel threatened when an alternative viewpoint is presented at governors'

meetings, but many do, because governors are both powerful and unpredictable. Some have personal agendas, others have bonnets full of bees. A stray comment by a member of staff can trigger all kinds of unintended consequences, from the formation of yet another governors'

working party, to the abandonment or delay of one of the head's cherished projects.And some heads will see their governors as a bunch of interfering busybodies best kept in the dark about the actual detail of what happens in school between 8am and 5pm. Others see the governing body as a rubber stamp for the head's decisions. Teacher governors are regarded as a threat to the success of that management technique and are likely to suffer as a result.

Are you enthusiastic about... ...accountability? Really? Have you considered developing a social life? Most of your colleagues probably think that their profession is accountable to far too many people already.

Are you good at... ...parallel lives? Because you will need to be. As a teacher governor your biggest problem will be over which hat to wear. If you choose your employee hat, then you will risk crossing swords with the head, who will expect staffing matters to be raised elsewhere - in negotiations with the unions, or with the individuals concerned. If you act as a governor should, taking a strategic view of the school, then you risk disappointing those who elected you, who will expect their concerns to be raised.

Does it pay?

No. Though some governing bodies do pay expenses.

Is it a good career move?

The answer ought to be Yes. Governors hold a great deal of power; in many schools they are the employers. Anyone with ambitions to move into senior management ought to have an understanding of how governance works. It's also a salutary experience to meet people regularly who see the school from a different perspective. But there's a strong argument that governing body sub-committees are the best way to acquire this kind of knowledge and expertise. In those settings where governors come into school to be briefed on the latest scheme or initiative, teachers have to explain their work and answer questions. As a teacher governor it's a different relationship; you move into the realm of policy. As any fool knows, that means courting controversy. It may mean making enemies, if not with the head, then with the governor whose cherished idea you just shot down in flames. The same governor may be on the appointments sub-committee that looks at your next promotion.

Is it safe?

No. The only way to play safe as a teacher governor is to go to meetings and keep a determinedly low profile: a tactic adopted by many teachers who have been arm-twisted into doing the job. But governors will have at least one full meeting a term, probably two or three, with additional sub-committees, pupil panels and appointment days. It's a lot of work and, if all you are going to do is sit on your hands and say nothing, it does rather seem to be a waste of time. There is an exception to all these caveats. The long-standing teacher who is passionate about his or her school, and who has no plans to move on, may want to become a governor in order to protect and promote the establishment where they have invested so much of their life. But that raises another question: if you are that committed to the place, why not really make a difference and aim for the head's office?

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