Pupils must be our top priority

25th November 2005 at 00:00
As school governors, we make decisions on changes which seem sensible to us but which have a serious effect on pupils, staff and anybody else who comes into contact with the school. But how far do we think through the consequences?

I was prompted to think about this from my own experience at a local supermarket, where I made the mistake of arriving the day before the new month's special offers on wine were due to start. None of the big displays of wine was actually labelled.

It turned out that no one knew what this month's special offers were because they had thrown away all the display material. The store was set up for Monday's customers but could not help those who turned up on Sunday afternoon. The manager explained that there were no Sunday night staff, so they liked to get ahead. I could always come back on Monday.

For the past few months, governors have been looking at how the new workforce agreement can be implemented. Teachers should teach. All non-teaching activities should be done by other people.

The reorganisation of the administrative side seems to be going relatively well. We have a new office structure, lots of job descriptions, and a dynamic business manager to make it all work and smooth over the bits for which no one is claiming responsibility.

I am more worried about the pastoral side, which is one of our major strengths as a school. The idea of a non-teaching counsellor for children to confide in, rather than a teacher with whom children have built up a relationship, seems problematical. What will happen to our looked-after children who already see far too many people in the caring professions?

And what systems should be in place to deal with the parents when they ring up about little Johnny's problems? We need training in nuances for the office staff - is it admin, pastoral or teaching and learning?

Some of this sub-division may be artificial. Mary's poor performance in geography homework may be connected to the fact she changed foster parents without warning last night, and this has also had an impact on her ability to pay for the field trip.

We must learn from my supermarket experience that the customer is more important than the organisation. The child should be more important than government diktat.

Martin Price is chair of governors at St Richard Gwyn RC high school in Barry, Vale of Glamorgan

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