Polls, damned polls and statistics

13th October 2000 at 01:00
Joan Sallis argues we should be wary about claims that most governors are disillusioned.

FOLLOWING reports of the National Association of Governors and Managers recent members' survey (TES, September 22), I was concerned these innocent grumbles might be exploited by forces unfriendly to governors.

Jane Phillips, who organised the survey, made it clear that the numbers replying were small, but the effect of these few replies may be disproportionate.

I support the plea that governors' enormous contribution to schools should have more public appreciation and also that they should be able to claim reasonable expenses without being made to feel that they are taking the money from the children.

I don't agree with paying governors for their work: that argument can wait for another day.

But we do not want to suggest that huge numbers of governors are disillusioned and eager to shed responsibility for curriculum, discipline and saffing matters, for special needs, and for ensuring that the school is accountable to parents.

To do so on the basis of a survey of 270 governors - more than half of whom are chairs - would be dangerous.

I don't know the views of 350,000 governors either. But I have had contact by post or in training sessions with thousands every year for many years, and I can only report that they appear to be keener than ever, give their time gladly, seek nothing in return except the odd kind word from the head perhaps. As ever their main source of discontent is the reluctance of some heads to accept governors' legal role.

Earlier this year I was equally worried about the publicity given to a survey of 3,000 odd heads that suggested governors were a major source of discontent.

I fear those who resist accountability in schools will exploit such polls for their own ends.

See www.tes.co.uk for more responses to the NAGM survey

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