Time for ailing bodies to seek professional help

21st January 2000 at 00:00
A Manual for Governing Bodies and their Clerks. Information for School and College Governors, pound;8 (including postage).

"THE CLERK is the constitutional conscience of the governing body," says the new edition of the manual from Information for School and College Governors.

The House of Commons' inquiry into the role of governors stressed the importance of professional clerking, but not all education authorities provide a service and many schools cannot afford it.

Heads and governors, very properly, may no longer act as clerks and the ISCG raises concerns about conflicting loyalties when school secretaries double in this role.

Whoever schools appoint, a proper job description is crucial (a model is given), rates of pay should be agreed and goodwill should not be exploited.

The manual stresses the need for clerks' training. The first part of the manual is mainly directed at them, outlining their duties and describing good practice. The second part provides a comprehensive but necessarily brief summary of the statutory duties of governing bodies. It is a useful refresher for chairs of governors or an introduction for new recruits.

We cannot keep al the complex legislation on governance in our heads, but a good clerk must know when and where to seek legal and professional advice.

This theme recurs: on employment issues, exclusions, staff grievance and other minefield areas, governors are urged to take education authority advice before acting.

Throughout the manual, a pencil icon in the margin usefully indicates particular points of importance to clerks.

Less welcome is the chirpy little 'Basil Bookworm' who would benefit from a dose of insecticide in future editions.

Apart from this minor point, this is a very useful manual and the ISCG are to be congratulated on producing it so quickly, encompassing so much recent legislation.

Largely factual, it occasionally allows itself a little personal philosophy. Among the duties of the chair of governors is listed: "Be ready to admit failure and take more than their fair share of blame."

How true.

A manual for governing bodies and their clerks is sponsored by Lloyds TSB. It is available from: ISGG, Avondale Park School, Sirdar Road, London W11 4EE. Telephone: 020 7229 0200. Fax: 020 7229 0651. E-mail: iscg@governors.fsnet.co.uk

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