Reward us with respect not cash

20th February 2004 at 00:00
This year has been like playing Twister for governors. The many new considerations could produce contorted positions if not tackled with a clear head.

Do you reconstitute straight away? Have you thought about the appropriate size of governing body? Did you sort out how to elect your chair and vice-chair? Have you had a thought about what you might delegate to committees and individuals? Have you reassigned the "24 tasks" from teachers? Are you ensuring your head's work and life are in balance? Where were you on the night of the 24th?

With this surge in initiatives has come renewed calls from some quarters for governors to receive payment for their time. The National Association of Governors and Managers has never been in favour of this. It might be tempting to think that cash would make it all bearable, but would it really? In practice, the complexities of the role would grow because paid governors would have fewer grounds for complaining about initiatives. In reality, unless every school was found to be built over an oil well, the sums on offer could never be large, and never enough to compensate for the time put in.

The psychology says that once you introduce money you introduce resentments. There is no sensible system devisable that would pay each governor according to what they do, so all would receive the same. And I work extremely hard, while he only turns up every other meeting.

Proponents argue that chairs should get more than governor colleagues. But would you have the same respect for the chair if you suspected they were only doing it for the dosh?

The principle of the unpaid volunteer is one that governors ought to champion. The present system of governance is a great exercise in democracy, and a vast amount of power has been placed in the hands of ordinary people. They are doing it without prospect of gain, because they believe it is important, they want to benefit children, and they think service to the community is valuable.

Teachers complained for a long time that the profession had been downgraded in public esteem. Governors, too, need respect, not cash. We don't want sniping from headteacher unions that governors "meddle", or lip-service consultation from government. We want to be listened to when we say that this is counterproductive, the other is ill-thought-out, or this is a first-rate idea. We deserve it, because we're worth it.

The author is vice-chair of the National Association of Governors and Managers. Want to sound off ? Email Karen.Thornton@tes.co.uk

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