While governors often feel they have too little time and money for the job they were put there to do, one thing they are generously provided for is representation. At least two national organisations claim to speak for them, along with a variety of local organisations.
The National Association of Governors and Managers was established in 1970 when the governors of primary schools were called managers. The association aims "to improve the quality of education by helping school governors in England and Wales to do their job well".
"NAGM has both individual members, typically governors of county, voluntary, special and grant-maintained schools, paying an annual subscription of Pounds 10 and group members, typically a governing body of such schools, paying an annual subscription of Pounds 30. The association is managed by annually elected NAGM members, serving unpaid, with a minimum of paid administrative staff.
The association says it aims to serve governors directly through Governors News, "a journal on current developments affecting governors" which members receive five times a year. It also produces regular briefing and advice papers including ones for new governors, parent governors and staff governors. "They try to give governors sufficient knowledge and confidence to carry out their challenging responsibilities," says NAGM.
The association also operates a 24-hour, seven-day-week free-phone helpline staffed by unpaid NAGM members. As it is open to all governors, call charges are paid by the Department for Education and Employment.
NAGM also aims "to serve its members indirectly by representing their viewpoint nationally to the government and its agencies". It tries to ensure that the position of governors is respected within the education system and that governors have the resources needed to maintain and raise standards in schools.
The association's claim to represent governor opinion when only a minority are members and there is little communication from the grassroots to the executive committee, was challenged by some governors in 1994. As a result, a second organisation - the National Governors' Council - was set up by a group of governors and local governor organisations from almost half the local authorities in the country.
Membership of the NGC is open only to local associations of governing bodies which are democratically run by their members. It is not open to individual governors or governing bodies though the NGC offers help to these to set up their own local governors' association where one does not exist.
Almost 60 associations are now affiliated to the NGC which claims it has grown rapidly in size and influence. "The NGC has become recognise as the major national voice for governing bodies, consulting with and influencing government and key organisations in education and representing the views and concerns of school governors," it says.
The idea of the pyramid of governing bodies, local associations, national meetings of representatives of local associations and the executive committee which runs the NGC is that it is better able to consult the grassroots on issues affecting governors and therefore better able to promote their views. "The NGC provides the network of governing bodies and associations to support each other and combine their voice on major issues," it says. "All governors can participate in the work of the NGC through their own governing body and the local association to which it belongs."
The council claims to be "in regular contact with ministers and other senior politicians" and the NGC has received support from the DFEE and corporate sponsors. However, it has yet to develop the kind of support services NAGM offers members through its journal and briefing papers though the NGC did produce a free "trigger pack" of briefing notes for new governors last autumn and runs a helpline on its office number.
Governor telephone helplines: NAGM: 0800 241 242 (freephone) NGC: 01363 774377 Contact addresses: NAGM, 21 Bennetts Hill, Bir-mingham B2 5QP (0121 643 5787) NGC, Glebe House, Church Street, Crediton, Devon EX17 2AF (01363 774377)