Why we're already ahead of our critics

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

Broad, sweeping statements based on unspecified or non-existent evidence pepper Chris Gale's article "Why we must train the whole governing body".

Not for the first time, she urges governor trainers to adopt methods and strategies they have been using successfully for years.

Yes, we train governors as individuals but also in small groups, as whole governing bodies and in clusters including groups from several schools.

We do train governors in strategy and of course we give them team advice and help them to get to know their schools through classroom visits.

The notion that new governors on training courses are "less than rapturously received by fellow governors" is as ridiculous as it is untrue. It also ignores the fact that governing bodies themselves have a responsibility for induction - and, of course, we help them with that, too.

Customised training, though very effective, is very labour-intensive, especially for the tiny governor-support teams in most LEAs. And the exponential rise in demand for such training has not led to a drop in demand fo courses, briefings and seminars.

There is, though, one considerable drawback to whole-body training - and that's the lack of interaction with governors from other schools. Only contact with members of effective governing bodies can shake the self-delusion of some weaker ones.

Also quality costs. Governing bodies are reluctant to spend "the school's" money on training and there is little or no LEA funding. If we didn't offer the services governors want and need, we would have gone out of business. The strategies Chris advocates might well cost more than governors are prepared to pay. Mandatory training for whole governing bodies? Dream on.

And distance learning? We have been doing it for years, with audiotapes, video, training packs and CD-Rom.

We agree on one key point, though: learning online is underdeveloped - but it is essentially a solitary activity, so where does that leave whole-body training?

The truth is that, given the diverse audience, no one approach to governor training is ever going to satisfy everyone. Thanks for the advice, Chris, but I think we're ahead of you.

David Marriott is head of governor support in Wiltshire, and author of "The Effective School Governor" (1998)

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