Murder and floods just part of the job

15th December 2006 at 00:00
In the autumn term, governing bodies elect officers and sort out who is on what committee. This year, after eight years as chair of governors, I have stepped down and a new chair has taken over the reins.

This prompts me to take stock. Have I made a difference? Will anybody notice the change?

The school is different now. My taking over as chair coincided with a new headteacher, so it is not all down to me, and I have tried to spread the load and get other governors to take major responsibilities - lots of delegation and no passengers here.

I won't bore you with the successes: the new buildings; the excellent inspection report; the best-ever results; the increased distinctive reputation as a small faith school with queues forming to get in, something new to us.

What I am more interested in recalling are the other bits of being a chair of governors which they didn't tell me about when I was conned into taking the job.

Nine months in and there was a murder on the first day of the summer holidays. The secretary of the parent-teacher association and her four children had been killed by their father. Two of the children were at the school, one had just left.

We had four film crews and every news outlet in the UK staked out in the car park. The school was the first story on every news bulletin and on the front page of every national newspaper for a week, until Concorde crashed in Paris.

Then there were the two floods. Who decided to build a school on land which is below sea level and then place an overflow sewage tank under the playing fields?

I remember looking at a river flowing into and out of the school buildings in the dark and wondering how the teachers were going to face clearing everything out for the second time in three years. At least the new building has sorted that out, and we have decent-sized pumps working constantly to keep the water at bay.

How did a missing coat - not school uniform - take so much time and effort when a parent made an official complaint? Not to mention the two employment tribunals. We won one and lost the other on a technicality, although I suspect the teacher's union would not agree about that bit.

Why did I persevere? Because of the young people in our care and the huge buzz of the annual leavers' mass, when we saw the end product of our labours - young, enthusiastic citizens ready to take on the world.

The governors gave a party last week, ostensibly to reward all the staff for the excellent results but actually to celebrate and value them.

All the staff - the cleaners, canteen ladies, technicians and the learning assistants as well as the teachers - scoffed curry and bopped the night away. Is there a tick box for team spirit in the next Estyn inspection?

Dr Martin Price is vice-chair of governors at St Richard Gwyn RC high school, Barry

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