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Wise men (and women) will go to the nativity play;Matters Arising;Governors;Briefing

The end of the year is a good time to take stock. Jane Martin on what governors should be doing in the festive season.

DECEMBER already - a good time to reflect and check what still needs doing.

The new school performance tables are a reminder of the important responsibility to set targets, which all governors must fulfil this term. Targets need to be set for the proportions of Year 6 pupils achieving level 4 in key stage 2 tests in English and maths, and of Year 11 pupils achieving five or more A* to C GCSE passes and one or more A* to G passes.

Governors did this for the first time last year but it is now a compulsory annual duty and at the heart of their role in raising standards. The targets for 2001 need to be negotiated with the education authority. The authority has already negotiated its own targets with the Department for Education and Employment, in line with national targets.

Performance data is essential to inform this process (make use of PANDA - performance and assessment reports - and the autumn data package).

Headteachers and the education authority will help you here. Target-setting could be delegated to the curriculum committee, but, as it is a core part of school improvement, it should be reported back fully.

Remember, the best targets are realistic but challenging.

A register of business

interests should be in place in school by the end of this month. All governors and the head are required by law to disclose any interests they or their relatives have in a business or other organisation which deals with the school. The register is vital to ensure impartiality. It will help decide when people should withdraw from meetings if they have a financial interest. It's a good idea to put it on the next agenda and start an annual review.

How has the home-school agreement worked so far? Reviewing the agreement is one of the responsibilities the governing body cannot delegate so you need to put a process in place. Did all parents willingly sign up to it? Any problems? Is the agreement being used constructively as part of home-school liaison?Perhaps ask for feedback now.

Don't forget to reply to the invitation to the nativity play and the Christmas concert - it will remind you of what governing is all about!

Jane Martin is education officer with responsibility for school governance with Dudley education authority

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