Supergovernors to the rescue

23rd July 1999 at 01:00
MPs have called for a new cadre of experts to support disadvantaged schools, reports Karen Thornton

Pools of experienced "super- governors" should be set up to help out colleagues in poverty-stricken schools, say MPs.

The move would mirror the use by some education authorities of "superheads", drafted in to turn around failing and weak schools.

Often the schools most in need of talented governors find it hardest to recruit them, says a new report from the education and employment select committee.

The new "support" governors would plug the gaps when schools found it difficult to recruit enough able people, and provide additional support to schools facing the biggest challenges in deprived areas.

Authorities already have the power to appoint extra governors to failing schools, they note.

Good governance improves schools, the MPs argue, and a clear strategy is needed to ensure that the most disadvantaged schools do not miss out because of local recruitment problems .

The report, The role of school governors, says the volunteers are generally doing a good job in schools -not only in terms of community involvement and accountability but by helping to raise standards.

No major reforms are needed , but MPs make a series of recommendations designed to improve the recruitment, retention, effectiveness and public standing of the country's 300,000 governors.

New recruits should get a welcoming letter from Education Secretary David Blunkett, and companies that allow governor employees time off work - or are involved in other initiatives such as education action zones and lifelong learning - should be recognised via an "investors in education" awards scheme.

MPs stop short of recommending paid time off work for meetings - although this should be reviewed by ministers if recruitment problems continue, they say. Instead, despite evidence that members are reluctant to take money out of school budgets, governing bodies should ensure they claim for legitimate expenses such as travel and childcare.

The report backs compulsory induction training for new recruits and new chairmen - a move opposed by the National Governors' Council, which believes mandatory training will put off volunteers. This proposal looks set to be rejected by the Government.

But governors will welcome the recommendation that annual meetings with parents be abolished. MPs, however, say governors should still publish an annual report to parents.

The committee also recommends that governors should formally review school standards at least once a year, and publish the criteria - both academic and pastoral - by which they judge their school's success.

But governors are warned against using their responsibilities for standards as a justification for inspecting individual teachers - a practice that has been criticised by teacher unions.

Copies of "The role of school governors", House of Commons paper number 509-I, are available from the Stationery Office, tel 0345 585463

The Role of School

Governors

Key recommendations :

* Set up local education authority pools of "support" governors.

* Governors should claim legitimate expenses.

* Set up a task force to reduce red tape and paperwork.

* Improve governor links with pupils * Drop annual meetings with parents, which are notoriously poorly-attended.

* Ensure governor training is of good quality, and introducecompulsory induction training for new volunteers.

* Investors in education scheme for companies supporting governor employees and other education initiatives.

* Code of practice for governor-school relationships.

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