The School governor - Let's avoid a baptism of fire

24th October 2008 at 01:00

There is a new governor at the table. Twenty minutes into the meeting, following the Sats, Senco and the school improvement partner, she is struggling. The chair is still on "matters arising" and there are another eight items still to come.

"What am I doing here?" the new arrival is thinking. "I thought I was here to support the school, but it seems I need to learn a whole new language."

Acronyms are just the beginning of the steep learning curve for the new governor. She has still to be introduced to the school development plan, 100 or so policies, and visits to the classroom. It is almost as if new governors are subjected to a baptism of fire, but it does not need to be so. Indeed, in many governing bodies new governors are welcomed by a smiling chair well in advance of the first meeting. Training is arranged with the local authority, and another governor is appointed as mentor for the first few meetings. A governors' handbook includes a calendar for the year, the main policies and school development plan, with a section giving the governing body targets for the year. Oh, and a list of all the acronyms, of course.

Is this utopia, or just plain common sense? If they are to make a meaningful contribution to the governing body, a new governor needs to "hit the deck running". Joining a committee, visiting, monitoring and evaluating the work of the school will be new experiences requiring knowledge and understanding.

A well-prepared governor is more likely to stay the course, but more importantly will be contributing to the discussions and the strategic decision-making from day one - confident that if they get it wrong, other governors are there to support, not condemn, the new face at the governing body table.

Carol Woodhouse, Chair of governors, Musbury Primary School in Devon.

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