Why we must train the whole body

17th November 2000 at 00:00
Too often individuals return enthused by their new training, only to be crushed by their fellows. Chris Gale suggests a remedy

STEP forward school governors as the group of people most deserving of first-class support and training.

There is no doubt that governing bodies have changed over the past three years. Greater school autonomy has given them more strategic responsibilities, most recently the new performance-management requirements.

During the past few months, we have seen a move towards prescribed governor training for performance management - delivered mostly by education authority governor trainers. These courses have been quite well-received by those who have attended and the National

Governors' Council looks forward to their evaluation.

This programme is now likely to be followed by nationally-

prescribed induction training for new governors, delivered in three modules. The participants are likely to be governors who have been to several board

meetings.

However, it is time to stop and think about what happens next. Remember what we are asking of governors. We expect them to be a part of a corporate body, but we train them as individuals. We ask them to take a strategic role, but we train them in detail not strategy. We want them to work as a team, but give them no team advice. We want them to get to know their school, but take them away from it to prepare them.

Is it any wonder that the new governor comes back from induction with shiny new credentials - only to be less than rapturously received by fellow governors? Disillusionment sets in - and the seeds of non-attendance and dissension are sown. Another potentially good governor "bites the dust".

There is a place for training new governors at a basic level, but the emphasis needs to be on whole governing body training. This has resource implications for trainers.

Many governor trainers do indeed work effectively with governing bodies s a whole and this is enormously appreciated. So has the time now come for some form of mandatory national strategy for whole governing body training and development?

Mandatory training of individual governors would not be desirable nor practicable but whole governing body training is more appropriate and effective - with everyone participating, including the headteacher.

Each governing body would be responsible for its own development and training needs - indeed, this would be part of the school's strategic plan. For example, this could take the form of a finance module prior to approving the budget, with everyone participating; or unpacking the curriculum plan in a secondary school in order to make it really comprehensible and give the opportunity for all to contribute. A guide to the interpretation of data would be helpful prior to setting targets. These could be delivered in-house - but the time taken properly paid for from the training budget.

Governors come from hugely diverse backgrounds. This is of great benefit to schools, but we also need to tailor training to fit this very diversity. Many are highly-professional people who feel that training courses for governors are patronising and poorly presented compared with what they are used to in their professional lives.

We need flexibility in training - but the concentration should be on the governing body itself and less on individuals. Resources, time and thought need to be given to more appropriate methods of delivery, including the use of information and communications technology.

We have started to apply ourselves to more up-to-date methods of delivery - such as the increased use of information technology, distance learning and learning online. With all the means at our disposal can't we be more innovative?

Chris Gale is chair of the National Governors' Council, which meets tomorrow for its annual conference. See next week's governor pages for reports


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