The young pretender

21st February 2003 at 00:00
Who has made the swiftest leap from high chair to chair of governors? Karen Thornton talks to the latest contender for our coveted title

ANDREW Tucker was a chair of governors at the tender age of 20 - and is still only 23. He arrived at Tidemill primary school in Deptford, London, in January 2000, just after it had been put into special measures by the Office for Standards in Education.

Inspectors said governors were not sufficiently involved in the strategic management of the school or the evaluation of its work, and had failed to produce an annual report to parents.

By September, Mr Tucker found himself chairing the governing body, and through traumatic times. Lewisham, the local education authority, took over the school's delegated budget and the previous headteacher left.

"My mum, Alison Tucker, was a headteacher at All Saints infants school in Croydon, and she made it sound quite interesting (she is now a school improvement officer in Lewisham). I wrote off to Lewisham, and they allocated me to Tidemill." he said.

"The chair left and the governing body was pretty ineffective. We completely restructured the way it works. The governing body has changed entirely from when I took over - it's an all new set of faces.

"It's quite rewarding, particularly in these circumstances - arriving in special measures and being there until the school came out."

Mr Tucker is a civil servant in the office of the deputy prime minister, working on constitutional issues, and admits his voluntary work looks good on his CV - particularly at his age. Governance and chairmanship have honed his leadership skills, taught him how to motivate people and he has learned about team work.

And he has firm ideas about how governance can be improved.

"There is an over-reliance on meetings. My impression from speaking to other governors is there is a stupid amount of committee work and numbers of committees. A lot of it could probably be done quite happily by an individual or one or two governors getting together with the head and reporting back to the board.

"We have two or three meetings a term, and outside of them we have individuals delegated to do particular jobs."

He is now considering leaving after his term of office ends later this year, and taking a break before contemplating another term as a governor.

"It feels like a natural time to end and go on to something else. But I'll wait and see. It would be quite interesting to go back to my old school, Sedgehill."

His headteacher, Mark Elms, who has led four schools, said Mr Tucker had "broken the mould".

"I've worked with a range of governors in terms of their background, abilities andexperiences. Andrew's really a breath of fresh air.

"He's very able, politically astute, and has managed to extract a very full contribution from other key members of the governing body.

"There is also a lot of humour; I think that's how he keeps governors on board, because they have a bit of fun too."

Mr Tucker seems to have stolen the crown of youngest chair of governors from Bill Holledge, who featured in The TES last month (January 3). Mr Holledge is chair of governors at Bar Hill primary school, near Cambridge, and is also 23.

The Cambridge graduate and consultant took the chair after only a year as a governor, and gets into the school every week.

Is or was your chair of governors younger than Mr Tucker? Email karen.thornton@tes.co.uk

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