At least pay us to improve ourselves

21st May 2004 at 01:00
I love school governance. I go on every training course offered by my local authority. I have a Btec in school governance and the Btec chairs' award.

I'm a chair of governors and I clerk for four other governing bodies. I have gained a lot from being a governor and I never get bored.

But I am getting frustrated and angry at the two-tier system. Matters came to a head recently when my vice-chair and I went to a seven-hour meeting to wade through a fraction of the summary profile of the new framework from the Office for Standards in Education.

The day before, I had a two-hour meeting about school catering, spent two hours discussing the paperwork for a forthcoming deputy head selection. The day after, I had a meeting to induct our new clerk, talked to a governor about monitoring school visits, stared in disbelief at a new consultation paper from the Department for Education and Skills, started to write a charging and remissions policy, checked the agenda for the next governors'

meeting and began to worry about the budget.

I understand why governors shouldn't be paid. We need to be independent and able to act in the interests of pupils and parents. Anyway, not many governors are happy to claim even expenses from their school.

If governors were paid, or the chair was paid, it would cast doubt on our motivation. Would good and bad chairs be paid the same? And who would undertake the performance management of these grasping individuals?

You will never be able to pay a proper rate, but you could pay people to train and increase their knowledge and understanding of the role.

Government could pay a fee to governors who undergo induction, and maybe a bigger one for spending 150 hours tackling the chairs' award. Then we might get some governors with real expertise.

I find it increasingly worrying that the Government relies on the goodwill of volunteers to take on jobs with huge responsibility. I know a good governing body is a boon to a school, a bad one a terrible drain. But how dare Ofsted judge us as professionals while so many schools and LEA staff treat governors as though they were incidental to school leadership - and even a nuisance? How dare Ofsted criticise us so harshly if we're not accepted as part of the system?

No one would claim the system is perfect. But when it's effective, governance by a committed team is a great asset to any school.

Treat us as professionals committed to the future of our young people, and we might just surprise the education world.

The author is chair of governors of a large primary school in Essex

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