Truths and myths about training

12th January 2001 at 00:00
Do claims that governor courses are poor quality ignore the evidence? Local authority trainers Phil Hand and David Marriott (right) defend their record

When a myth is repeated often enough, people come to believe it. One myth which has found its way even into the pages of The TES is about the quality of governor training provided by local education authorities.

National Governors' Council chairwoman Chris Gale repeated this myth in these pages two months ago (TES, November 17). She described training as "patronising and poorly presented" and "training in detail not strategy".

The impression given was that training of whole governing bodies had only just been invented, and that courses offered from education authority training centres were something of a waste of time.

The only thing missing from this debate is evidence.

There has only been limited evaluation of the quality of governor training nationally. But Office for Standards in Education inspection reports about local education authorities are easily accessible on the internet - and most (79 of 88) evaluate governor training. Analysing inspectors' comments using a simple OFSTED-style scale, the following evaluation of training emerges:

* Very good (ie unqualified praise, only positive comment) - 40 (51 per cent).

* Good (praise with some reservations) - 25 (32 per cent).

* Satisfactory (balance of positive and negative comment) - nine (11 per cent).

* Unsatisfactory (low-quality with some good points) - four (5 per cent).

* Poor (no positive comment) - one (1 per cent).

The key conclusion: governor training provison is overwhelmingly good or very good (83 per cent) .

There are some ironies in this. We are soon to receive a national programme for governor induction training, presumably because of this myth. Such a resource will be useful - particularly to us governor-trainers anxious to continue to offer the best. But, ironically, induction was one of the training elements most praised by OFSTED, second only to whole governing body training.

The majority of LEA governor-trainers offer a mixture of both courses at centres and training in school, because this is what governors want.

Of course governing bodies benefit from training tailored to their needs. But there are many benefits of centre-based training: a wide curriculum; meeting other governors and sharing ideas; gathering resources and information to take back to colleagues; and developing a view of education that is wider than just your own school's. Why abandon it?

One can only conclude that Chris Gale is chair of governors of a school that does not subscribe to the high- quality and externally-evaluated governor training provided by its LEA.

Yes, I speak as a governor-trainer; but I am also a governor, as are the majority of my colleagues up and down the country. We care passionately about governors, schools and children's learning. We are active in our own schools and governor associations.

If there are people out there who think we do not do a good job, we are listening. It would help, however, if we could be provided with evidence of what is not working now.

Phil Hand is governor services co-ordinator for New Forest, Hampshire

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