Young blood to revive the body

2nd July 1999 at 01:00
Karen Bayne meets two twentysomething sisters who may be the first of a new breed to run our schools, confounding stereotypical images of 'pale and stale' school governors

With school governors in short supply, the Reverend Quintin Peppiatt has been taking an imaginative approach to his civic duties.

Vicar at Mary Magdalen's church in Newham, London, and a leading member of the council's education committee, Mr Peppiatt has started recruiting potential applicants as he goes about his daily duties. He regularly fishes for recruits during church services.

His efforts have just secured the services of two of Britain's youngest governors, Lindsey Towse, 20, and her sister Leighann, 23.

They were approached by Mr Peppiatt while Leighann was preparing for her wedding.

Traditional approaches such as advertisements in Newham's local papers and community centres have failed to attract sufficient volunteers.

Mr Peppiat said: "The personal approach works. The main thing is that Lindsey and Leighann are interested in children. They don't need to know the ins and outs of education law and finance and are a welcome break from the 'pale and stale' governor stereotype."

A recent survey conducted by The National Association of Governors and Managers found 34 per cent of its members expected to have difficulties in recruiting, and 58 per cent were resigning before their term of office finished because of the unexpected workload and time commitment.

Last month the association told the House of Commons education committee that schools should recruit in supermarkets to make governing bodies more representative. Committee chair, Malcolm Wicks, suggested that pupils could also be recruited.

Lindsey, a nursery nurse, and Leighann, mother of two and full-time student, have attended initial training sessions and borough meetings and intend to be governors for at least two years.

Leighann said: "If this was in the business sector, I would have to pay to learn all these things. I can use the training on things like education action zones for my essays at college."

Both sisters declare that their age is a bonus when it comes to equal opportunities issues.

"We have lived in a very mixed society all our life and take it for granted that people have different beliefs and different problems," said Leighann.

"Older people don't have the same experience and may overlook things."

The number of young governors is set to increase as plans are considered to set up links between higher education institutions and school governing bodies.

Emma Westcott, who is education policy officer at the Local Government Association, said the LGA was encouraging universities to accredit school governor training in a bid to involve under-represented groups.

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