The School governor - Time for a visit

3rd October 2008 at 01:00

The men and women who become school governors are the type of people who have bursting lifestyles. Jobs, families, caring for relatives, voluntary work and so on can mean that governor duties are difficult to squeeze in.

Governors perform their roles with passion, but it is easy to fall into the trap of visiting school only for the timetabled cycle of meetings. Governors can then become distanced from the school, seeing only reports and data rather than children and learning.

Think about it. If it was possible to make evaluations of a school based solely on reports and data, Ofsted would never need to visit them for its inspections, preferring instead to write all reports from plush offices in central London.

While it is not a governor's role to intervene in the day-to-day management of the school, spending time there is important for understanding how it works.

Many schools have governors linked to curriculum areas or particular year groups. These governors spend time in lessons getting to grips with issues.

Written reports can tell you about a revised numeracy strategy, but nothing beats seeing it first hand. When interviewing for new staff, take your break in the staffroom and chat to the people who power the school engine. When you subsequently read a report from the English subject leader, you will know exactly who this person is and will have established an informal relationship with him or her.

Some governors attend lesson observations with senior management. However, care should be taken here. Being in school should be about building bridges, and lesson observations are not always entirely positive.

The extent of governor involvement during the daytime will vary between establishments. However, their greater knowledge and understanding from first-hand experience of children and learning makes governors better positioned for strategic decision-making - as long as they can find the time.

Aaron King, Governor in Sheffield.

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