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Value of one-to-ones

Most governing bodies include people with a range of skills and experiences. The ideal situation would be to have governors who between them have all the expertise needed to oversee a complex organisation such as a school.

Schools are complex because the range of strategic, financial, human and organisational issues commonplace in most of them is far wider and more complicated than in most other organisations. Of course, businesses are often complex, but rarely do they involve the welfare and protection issues to be found in schools.

In the real world, most schools aren't fortunate enough to have governors who possess all the skills required. Thus we have to make the best use of those we have on the governing body and try to make sure we put these to good use for the benefit of the school.

A regular one-to-one meeting between the chair and each individual governor is a good way to capitalise on the expertise governors possess. A one-to-one can also help identify the skills a governor might be prepared to gain or enhance, perhaps through training provided by the local authority. "Regular" depends on how busy everyone is, but once a year is too infrequent and once a term may cause too much inconvenience. I would suggest twice a year.

Such sessions also provide an opportunity for individual governors to raise their concerns and to make suggestions outside the formal governing body meeting. One-to-ones need to be open and honest but undertaken sensitively so that they don't appear to be an appraisal of the performance of someone who is already giving a considerable amount of their time to the school. However, if the aim of a one-to-one is clear from the outset, most governors will find it useful.

Alan Wells, Chair of governors at a primary in north-east London.

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