Talking shop

23rd June 2000 at 01:00
Former headteacher Sue Mulvany gets to the heart of issues that concern you


I have been a parent governor at my local school for just over a year. I am an accountant and my wife is a teacher governor at her own school, which is in another part of the town. Recently we have had timeto compare notes. My wife is a subject leader for English and has been asked to prepare data on pupils' achievements and rate of progress for a presentation to the full governing body next term. The two schools seem to be conducting business in different ways. Is she being asked to do too much or is my governing body being kept in the dark about what is expected from them?


It rather sounds like the latter from what you describe. Governors need relevant information, presented with clarity and in a manner that is professional, yet relaxed, so that they can ask the questions they need to. If they don't get this and aren't expected to question data, they are being denied the wherewithal to do their job.

The school should be presenting information on the curriculum; what it contains and how it is planned. You should receive information on the progress pupils are making through the schemes of work, especially in English and maths, and you should know the trends in attainment year by year. Governors should be able to check that the school is on track to meet the targets it has set for itself.

As a governor you should have already experienced the yearly target-setting cycle which is so crucial to school improvement. How-ever, because you are new to the job the process may have taken place in a way you may not have recognised. You would need to look a little closer at the documentation you have received from your school and ask the headteacher to explain the process so you can be doubly sure.

If you are not satisfied with the answers the head provides then ask that the information is brought to the next meeting and meanwhile get yourself and the rest of the governors on to a training course on how to set targets and interpret data. Keep a regular programme of training as a priority so that you are not dependant solely on receiving information but know what to ask for.

As to your wife being asked to do too much, if one wanted to be negatively pedantic one would refer to the original job description, pick it apart and find a reason why she should not attend governors' meetings. This would be countered by reference to the head's duty todirect the hours of work for teachers.

All schools, as you are finding out, do things in different ways. The bottom line is that the governors, whose talents and expertise are all too often underused by schools, should be well-equipped to discharge their duty of holding the school to account.


I have been working as a key stage 2 teacher in a school for about seven years and am very happy. I have a friendly relationship with the school community. The thing is that I am gay and am coming to a point where I don't want to live a lie any longer. I know the parents and staff see me as the kindly bachelor and I am well aware that I could be endangering the goodwill built up over years. What should I do?


You seem to have worked out for yourself all the pros and cons of the situation, found they are finely balanced and are just holding back from the final step. From your point of view, there are problems on both sides of the fence - remain as you are and be fearful of discovery and have the discomfort of hiding behind a mask, come out and be fearful of rejection and abuse. You are already in a situation you find increasingly uncomfortable and false, so by coming out there might be more of a chance of peace and fulfilment. You could start by just mentioning it to a few chosen individuals and gauging their reactions. You also need to consider the possible adverse reaction of any unenlightened parents if word gets out, and indeed of the children themselves. Gaining the support of your colleagues would be vital in helping you get through any unpleasant situations. Good luck.


I am a teaching assistant and work mainly with one or two teachers whom I have got to know quite well. A few weeks ago everyone was very busy and one of the teachers asked me to add up the attendance marks in the register and identify the authorised and unauthorised absences. The way in which she wanted me to do it was time-consuming and took me a long time when I could have been doing something more useful. Should I be used in this way?


In my opinion, no. What you describe sounds like an entirely administrative job and a misuse of teaching time.

Just think of the children and what they could have gained from the same amount of time if you had been with them, either supporting or assessing them. Have a quiet word with your teacher and tell her you think your time could have been better spent working with the children.

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