This is a useful little book for all governing bodies still struggling with the two big questions: how to define the boundaries between governance and management, and how to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of their decisions.
The authors, Jackie Walters and Colin Richardson have wide experience of working with governors, and the book is blessed with the obligatory Joan Sallis seal of approval in the form of a crisp and inspiring foreword. The book's proposals are all illustrated by case studies and quotes from working governors.
Less useful are the diagrams adapted from the work of John Carver. The arguments presented are perfectly comprehensible without the aid of his concentric circles and one word boxes.
As Joan Sallis points out, "At present there is an indecent scramble to cobble up missing policies under the shadow of OFSTED, (Office for Standards in Education) policies which may bear no relation to what people do and are never read again."
The book suggests that governing bodies should be replacing their "off the peg" policies with ones that genuinely reflect the aims and objectives of the governors, defining the "what" is required while leaving the "how" of implementation to the head and staff. The authors believe that the full involvement of headteacher and teacher governors should prevent governors from imposing unrealistic expectations.
This is necessarily going to be a time-consuming process. The book suggests starting with the aims of the school and identifying two or three priorities for policy development in the first year. The authors assert that there is no place for committees and working parties in policy-making: the issues must be fully discussed and agreed by the whole governing body. They also stress the importance of consulting parents and the wider community to ensure that policies reflect their aspirations, and give useful advice on how this can be done, while recognising the potential difficulties created by conflicting views or ideologies unacceptable to the staff charged with implementation.
The other crucial aspect of this model of governance is that criteria for monitoring the policies should be written in from the beginning, not bolted on afterwards. Curiously, the authors suggest that only matters addressed in policy should be monitored, which must limit the effectiveness of the governing body while the lengthy process of establishing policies is in progress.
There is a final chapter on ethnic minority consultation based on work done in raising Asian governor representation in Bradford, which many local authorities and individual schools may find useful.
Altogether an interesting approach, requiring much good will and more hard work.