Wrangles over helpline

14th April 2000 at 01:00
Governor groups are divided over who should run a new national phone advice

service. Karen Thornton reports.

THE LAUNCH of a new national helpline for governors has been delayed, amid rival proposals to run it.

Ministers pledged to set up a single national helpline last October, after the Commons' select committee on education said large numbers of governors were unaware of the existing lines run by the three main governor organisations.

But the anticipated April 1 launch date has passed, with governor organisations divided over the running and management of the new service, and the Department for Education and Employment accused of a lack of urgency.

The National Association of Governors and Managers has submitted its own proposals for running the new advice line in response, it says, to approaches to the private sector that have been made by the National Governors Council.

NAGM suggests a new pound;47,500-a-year line, jointly managed by all three groups and the DFEE, and staffed by "expert" volunteer-governors on the existing helplines.

Chairman John Adams said: "We don't want a reduction in the quality of service we offer to our members. It doesn't mean there is someone awake at 4am, but we do get a large number of calls in the evening and at weekends.

"We have a group of volunteers who are incredibly well-qualified. Some have been in school governance for more than 20 years. It's rather difficult to recruit that expertise from anywhere else."

But the NGC is interested in a professional service, and has been in touch with Croner CCH Group Limited, a publishing company that produces a governors' manual.

Council chairwoman Chris Gale said: "NGC is looking at professionalpractitioner support for governors who want good, reliable and 'expert' advice when they most need it.

"NGC is interested in working with an organisation as well-respected as Croner, but I have not spoken to them myself," she said.

"We feel very well-placed, being the largest governor organisation, to know the anxieties and needs of so many of our colleagues. We would like to stress, though, that we wish to work with the other governor organisations."

Margaret Jones, of Information for School and College Governors, said: "We want to see what the select committee required. We want a professional service run by governors."

The DFEE refused to comment on the new advice line, saying officials were consulting ministers.

ISCG, telephone 0207 229 0200; NAGM, 0800 241242; NGC, 01363 774377.

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