Kilroy was here before you

6th June 2008 at 01:00
It is important to keep parents informed when changes are planned
It is important to keep parents informed when changes are planned. In an ideal world, elected parent governors would report back to their "electorate" - the parents. The difficulty of recruiting in some schools means that often any parent who expresses an interest becomes a governor, without the formal support gained through a competitive election.

Problems arise when people don't know what's going on, rather than when they disagree with plans. So keeping people informed, and consulting them, are important.

But how do you do it in a worthwhile way?

Questionnaires tend to get a very low response. Telephone polls need specialist skills and the agreement of parents that they don't mind being phoned.

Formal meetings tend to set up a "them and us" situation, with parents in rows facing governors at the front. However, if you organise your meeting in a more user-friendly way, you can achieve real interaction. Word soon gets around that it's worth attending.

So think through the format. Organise the room so that it's "in the round", with governors in the audience rather than at the front. Make sure that there's only a limited amount of "talking at", but lots of clear questions and "talking with". Learn from television. You probably can't afford a Robert Kilroy-Silk, but you could try some of the methods he used to get people involved in his show Kilroy.

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

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