Parental split is too painful

24th October 2003 at 01:00
Almost exactly seven years ago, I made the step from parent helper to parent governor. Two other women made that step with me. (At that time, our separate infant and junior schools had a single governing body.) We went along to governor training sessions together. If one could not attend, the others collected the handouts for her. We sat together at governing body meetings and gradually, we gained in confidence. We started to speak up. We took on responsibilities and worked to involve parents more fully in school life. The Office for Standards in Education came along - to both schools - and was impressed. We felt great. We were established governors.

Then the directive came from on high. Separate infant and junior schools should have separate governing bodies. So we found ourselves governors on two governing bodies. Double the meetings, double the paperwork. But things continued to go well. Along came Ofsted again, and went away full of praise.

Surely this time we would get to serve a full term? Well, no. A second directive from on high declared that infant and junior schools were a bad thing, primary schools were a good thing. We must amalgamate! But to oversee this process we needed a temporary governing body. So there we were: three busy women, serving on three governing bodies. Three lots of meetings, three lots of paperwork, three lots of headaches.

This last year has been the toughest and most turbulent I have known as a governor. Within the schools, there was tremendous goodwill and a desire to create one outstanding school. However, our dealings with the local education authority were frustrating and often infuriating.

The new school is off to a confident start - and it needs a governing body.

How could we abandon the school now, at such an exciting, yet challenging time? We want to continue as governors, but we cannot. Not all three of us.

Because we are all on the staff now, and under the new rules, we cannot be parent governors. Surely an exception should be made for parents who are also on staff? By working at the school, do we forfeit our rights as parents? It seems we do.

A partnership which has lasted seven years has been broken, leaving us feeling bereft. The head has sought a way round the problem, as have other governors. One of us could stand as staff governor, the others could be put forward as associate members. Maybe we shall still be together. But it won't be the same.

Pat Wilson is a parent governor in the North-east. We welcome all contributions to Sounding Off and pay for any we publish: send to Susan.young@tes.co.uk

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