Policies tell the world what you stand for

23rd May 2003 at 01:00
Policies: A guide for school governors and headteachers Michele Robbins amp; Martin Baxter Adamson Books, pound;10.95 ISBN 0-948543-95-7

Some years ago, about the time of the advent of the Office for Standards in Education, a colleague was made a very attractive offer by a school. "Write all the policies we ought to have for pound;1,000..."

My friend, a man of enormous integrity, said no. But ever since, some have asked, would it not be helpful for the education authority (or Department for Education and Skills, or diocese) to write our policies for us? Why should we all go on reinventing the wheel?

My response is that every policy must be unique to the school. How can a governing body feel ownership of a policy that has been dumped on them?

So this book has dangers. The authors make it clear that a model policy is just that - these 30 policies are to be drawn upon, not copied. But the temptation to lift them may be too much for some.

Nevertheless, the advice given is helpful. Along with model policies, there is guidance on drawing up a statement of values, drawing up policies, and which policies are statutory (not as easy to define as you might think).

There is a useful list of specialist roles for governors and a sample form for a governor's school visit (which neatly avoids governors making judgments about professional matters).

My major worry about the book is a statement in the first paragraph:

"Schools are required to produce a number of policies. Some, such as those on how to teach individual subjects ... need not come before the governing body, but many are clearly designated as the governing body's responsibility."

Well, actually all policies are the governing body's, as it is the ultimate authority for the school. Everything that happens should be covered, however loosely, by a policy. Policies show how governors believe a school should run - that is why we have them, not because we are "required" to.

On this, I differ from the authors fairly seriously. But that aside, any chair of governors would find this book helpful - provided they use it as the authors intend!

Nigel Gann is an education consultant and chair of governors.

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