On the search for good governors

18th March 2005 at 00:00
Andy Borthwick's article "Bit-part players with a huge burden" (TES, February 18) sums up the responsibilities the Government has given to governors - they are onerous.

At times, even ministers mistakenly think that heads rather than governors have the right to exclude pupils and are responsible for budgets.

As governors, we are well used to being undervalued and undermined by the Government. After all, we are only volunteers who are elected to represent parents and appointed to represent the local education authority and the community.

Mr Borthwick proposes appointing hand-picked senior business and commercial personnel to governorships. Many governing bodies find it difficult to find sufficient governors in any category, so where do schools find these people to hand-pick?

Surely such personnel are working all hours to guide the nation's economy? The critical characteristics for governors are commitment and time. The stakeholder model at least nods in the direction of democracy but does not fully embrace it. Returning to the patronage system of appointees from the "great and the good" would be a retrograde step.

One of the areas of good practice identified by the Office for Standards in Education in LEAs is governor training, yet Mr Borthwick suggests that independent trainers can do better. Well yes, in certain circumstances they can deliver the difficult messages to schools and LEAs and then walk away, leaving them to digest and implement our suggestions.

But, by and large, this is not what most schools want or need. An LEA trainer who understands the local context, knows the school's problems and can work with the governing body can move a school forward very effectively.

Over the past 15 years I have delivered and benefited from both LEA and independent training. Unlike Mr Borthwick, I rate LEA training as second to none.

Dr Carol M Woodhouse

Chair of governors

Musbury primary school

Axminster

Devon

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