'Mumsy' meets the alien

2nd March 2001 at 00:00
Answers your questions

WE co-opted a promising new colleague whose experience suggested he might introduce a bit of rigour. We are a friendly, committed group, all living locally, described once as "mumsy"! We did feel that the school was struggling a bit with some business aspects, but frankly, this new member is a bit much for us. He works for a group providing accountancy to small concerns, including schools, and the first problem is that we feel he may be pushing these services in our direction. We had been considering whether we wanted outside help, but surely it isn't right that a member is selling his own wares?

Secondly, he seems to have personally taken over a lot of detailed budget work and, although we need guidance, we don't want to lose ownership. Also, he doesn't realise that a school is different from business, and you can't talk about teachers as if they were workers in a car production line.

His vocabulary and comparisons all sound very alien, and he is very hard on teachers. The teacher governors find him upsetting. He doesn't read anything about education so I feel quite safe writing this!

I don't think this situation is all that uncommon. Many governing bodies seek help in dealing with those unfamiliar things local management has brought, and I suspect quite a few fear being taken over.

Firstly, I doubt whether your new colleague is trying to take you over or to get you to buy his firm's services. He is an nthusiast for a particular approach and hasn't encountered the softer culture of schools before. However, if the question of your buying outside help did arise, he should be aware of rules about declaring an interest. Perhaps your chair should have a word with him before such issues arise. Secondly, I wouldn't worry unduly about his 'alien culture'. Schools have already changed a great deal since local management. (If you doubt it, listen to how often the word 'deliver' comes up.) I'm not saying whether that's a good or bad thing, but if you leaned the other way, one governor isn't going to be a disaster and could be healthy.

The third set of issues, regarding your teamwork, your finance and possibly personnel committees, worries me more. A governor may start to become dominant or be in danger of getting too involved in operational matters. An expert helping governors to make decisions is fine, but if he or she starts making the decisions that's wrong. It's far better to look hard at your budget to see if you can afford some more paid help in the school office to support the head in running the school while you share the maintenance of policies.

There is a procedure for voting a co-opted governor off the body, but I think you really just want to be clear about the declaration of interest; assert yourselves as a group and keep hold of the responsibility you share.

Write to Joan at The TES, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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