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Threat to 'critical friends' role

GOVERNORS are frightened, tired, and angry - and don't want the management role that they feel ministers are off-loading onto them, writes Karen Thornton.

Surveys by governor organisations suggest widespread concern about government policy - including managing performance-related pay for teachers and setting targets to raise academic standards. Many governors would rather headteachers and education authorities managed staffing issues, and would prefer to leave the chief role in academic target-setting to teachers.

Research by the National Association of Governors and Managers, in conjunction with the University of Hertfordshire, shows governors believe their key roles are in raising standards, achieving value for money, and providing accountability to local communities.

A questionnaire returned by 336 members showed that virtually all (98 per cent) accepted they should be involved in establishing the aims and policies of their schools. Around 88 per cent believed they should:

* select the headteacher;

* monitor the school budget;

* produce an annual report and hold an annual meeting for parents;

* draw up the school development plan;

* agree general principles on pupil discipline;

* act as a link between the community and school.

But fewer than half believed that they should be responsible for staff pay levels, promotion, and discipline. Only 37 per cent felt they should set academic improvement targets.

Interim findings of a survey by Information for School and College Governors also suggest staff pay and appraisal issues are not governor priorities.

Governors were found to be more concerned with providing better support for staff in schools and with securing recognised qualifications for classroom assistants.

The NAGM survey quotes extensively from governors. It claims: "The idea of a critical friend seems to be giving way to the concept of an unpaid consultant."

The NAGM report concludes: "Governors are frightened. Some express resentment at the expectation that they will be willing and able to carry out high-level management tasks which had previously been the responsibility of well-paid professionals."

Both surveys, and other evidence from the National Governors' Council, have been submitted to the House of Commons select committee on education's investigation into governance.

Governors, page 25

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