On top of the curriculum

Wendy Cairns has been a local education authority governor of Yateley School, a large Hampshire secondary, for 13 years. A former chair of governors, since 1993 she has mixed business with pleasure working as a local governor services co-ordinator.

"We're a governing body which cares," she says. The head, three deputies, the school's business manager and the 19 governors have a successful working relationship. "We have two meetings per term, one business, the other topic-based and seven committees to share the load."

Wendy sits on the curriculum committee. "This has an open membership so all governors can attend its monthly meetings. Each meeting considers one curriculum area. We visit that part of the school and a departmental head or team addresses us."

Wendy said that in a large secondary school it would be difficult to keep on top of curriculum issues - "there's so much to talk about" - without a structured approach. "We receive reports which are focused on performance. Monitoring is a key part of our role. We look at end-of-year test results, ask how students compare with previous years and get to grips with understanding how 'value-added' is measured. We do not need to know nitty-gritty details.

"We have spent much time recently looking at wider social and moral curriculum aspects. We have examined indicators such as truancy, absenteeism, exclusions, leavers' destinations and extra-curricular activities to get a total school picture."

Yateley's governing body has an annual development day to plan priorities. "We decided a while ago that if we weren't making an impact on the curriculum, we were wasting our time."

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