A week ago, our postman almost got a hernia delivering the latest batch of governors' bumph. Sandwiched between the usual reports and financial analyses were a user's guide and eight modules of governor training material produced by the Further Education Funding Council. A covering note from Rex, our principal, extolled the virtues of training - even for hard-pressed governors - and expressed the hope that we could read it all in time for the next board meeting!
Our training is on the agenda when we assemble. Charles, our representative from industry, is first off the blocks: "While I commend the concept, in practice, I can't devote anything like the time to operate in the range and depth of commitment and contribution suggested in the training modules."
"Looking at governor responsibilities for financial monitoring," I begin, "unless I trained as an accountant and had a great deal of free time, I see little chance of fulfilling that role, despite having a personal liability for it."
"Where does it place me?" asks Mary, the teacher governor. "My responsibility to overview the quality of teaching falters on our teaching load of 25 hours in front of students and only 11 hours to cope with preparation, new syllabuses, marking, admin, customer service to students and so on. Will the board vote in a policy of 15 hours teaching so we can make quality a reality?" "Auch, it's fine on paper," says Fergus, our university governor. "It's just the same for lay magistrates. The Government has great ideas to make education and justice better, but won't fund it and expecs the public to do it for nothing. Now it's even putting legal responsibilities on governors to carry the can. Is it any wonder we still have a vacancy on the board!" Our chairman, Alan, is an expert at calming troubled waters. "It's most gratifying to observe that you have all studied the modules. The time you have spent is surely to the benefit of the college. No system is perfect, as I am sure Mary would agree. We must be careful to distinguish between the role of the senior management team and the governors."
"I'm sure we'd love to reduce Mary's teaching hours to 15," interrupts Silas, our financial director, "but the cost would be prohibitive."
"So we rely on her goodwill and still demand higher quality," I conclude. Mary smiles at me and looks up at theceiling in despair.
Enter Steven, newly elected President of the Students Union and our new student governor.
Remarkably free of body piercing and, hopefully, not as silent as his predecessor, he begins bravely. "I want to campaign for much better student facilities and computers that actually work in the learning centre. I doubt if that'll get me good grades in my GNVQ qualification."
Rex quickly intervenes. "When we talked about your role, I emphasised you are a governor in an individual capacity, not representing the students. Your contribution to the board will have no effect on your academic grades."
"Come what may," says Fergus, "your governorship will look very good in the personal statement on your Ucas application."
"We must move on," Alan insists. "We need to approve the estimates for the majorextension to the administrative block."