It's not a drop-in commitment

8th February 2008 at 00:00
The hope is that all governors will attend every meeting. You also hope that they will have read the papers and feel able to contribute to the discussion. But what do you do about the "occasional governor", the one who turns up for meetings rarely and doesn't seem to have kept up with what has been happening at the school?

On the first governing body on which I served, it was clear that one or two of the governors felt out of their depth. They seemed to be intimidated by both the agenda and the papers for meetings. Soon enough, they stopped attending regularly. Occasionally they did turn up, but contributed little and eventually resigned. Looking back, my feeling is that we didn't do enough to keep them involved.

Much more irritating is the governor who attends about one in every three meetings but, just when you think you'll never see them again, turns up and contributes as though they have been a regular attendee. This is annoying as it often involves going over old ground and discussion of matters that have already been dealt with at earlier meetings. Constantly saying "We've already discussed that" probably grates on everyone, not just the "occasional governor".

So what can you do other than trying to exert group pressure to get them to attend more regularly? First, the chair should have a one-to-one with the governor concerned to find out why they attend so irregularly. It needs to be established whether there is a particular problem and whether their absences are short-term rather than a permanent pattern. After that, if no change is discernible, the governing body has to stop accepting apologies and set about removing the governor. Serving on a governing body isn't a drop-in commitment and every governor needs to know this.

Alan Wells, Chair of governors at a north-east London primary.

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