Workload worries hit governors hard too

15th October 2004 at 01:00
In the six years that I have been a governor I have practised, until almost perfect, the art of turning the other cheek. I have learned to accept that many of the system's failings will be blamed on a band of unpaid, non-professional volunteers. Learned to think of the barbed comments as the shadows that help make the successes shine all the brighter. Learned to keep silent when those successes, however long they had taken to research or negotiate, would pass unnoticed and unremarked upon, until they made a difference in standards and then watch the teachers reap the praise.

But all that training deserted me when I read that school governors are to blame for the increase in hours that primary teachers work and for the failure to fully implement the first phase of the workload deal (TES, October 1).

How can that be? Do the teaching unions really believe that governors sit around cackling that they have denied teachers what is rightfully theirs? Do they imagine that we turn up for meetings after having taken - unpaid - time off work and arranged for - paid - babysitters to deliberately antagonise and stymie the staff?

Unions are free to cut any deal they like with ministers in the best interests of their members, but it is we governors who then have to find the money to actually implement their agreements. And we have to consider all our staff. Yes, we could easily cut teachers' workload, but don't the support staff have an equal right to a more secure and lucrative career as they take on those extra roles and responsibilities?

Working within a budget that has not allowed us to increase by a penny any of the curriculum co-ordinators' budgets for the second year running, nor let us employ a creche leader for 90 minutes during the annual parents' meeting, does not allow us much room for manoeuvre.

I do not believe there is a governor out there who thinks that teachers'

workload should not be cut. We all know that implementing the workforce deal is a statutory duty, but so is setting a non-deficit budget. So far, most of us have been able to do both.

But unless we stop being used as a whipping post, by the time phase two of the deal comes into play, there won't be many of us left to agonise how best to share out the meagre budget for the benefit of all our staff, and lest we forget, the pupils.

Alison Shepherd is the chair of governors at a North-east London primary school. Feeling aggrieved? Write us a 400-word Sounding Off and get paid as you grumble. Send it to

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