JPs should be benchmark

4th June 2004 at 01:00
I have great sympathy with the view expressed by the chair of governors in Essex in "Sounding Off" (TES, May 21). I strongly agree that "good" governors are worth their weight in gold. However, the problem lies with their role and responsibilities not their payment.

As an inspector for the Office for Standards in Education I know that great pains are taken to review the role of governors within the context of each school.

While governors are unpaid volunteers, so are JPs. But unlike governors, magistrates have to undertake a lengthy selection process to ensure that the right candidates are representative of the wider community. They must also attend training every year, without pay. However, they do not have responsibilities for large budgets, "hire and fire" or make policy decisions like governors.

So why not recognise that governors' responsibilities should be reconsidered and put the management, leadership and responsibility for the school firmly with the experts who do get paid and have greater accountability? This should be the headteacher, the local education authority and central government.

Governors can then be trained and supported on a similar basis to magistrates and provide the "critical friend" aspect with clear channels of communication including "grievance" so that pupils and staff in school get the best from everyone. Maybe then we would have more volunteers to carry out this important role.

Sally Howard Melbourne Derbyshire

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