Monday, 28 May 2012

A few things you didn't know about school governors.

They lie in wait for you, you know - headteachers, and school secretaries; they've got wind that you work in education; and they think they can reel you in. Which they did.

After 4 years or however long the term of office was, I tried to escape. But guilt: there's no-one else; how did I feel where the chair tried to step down again? I stayed for another term; and another . .

I was a governor at Royal Park School from the early nineties till it closed in 2006; till it was hounded to death by a stupid,  uncaring and unimaginative CEO from a private education company - just thought I'd get that in. Our governors' meetings lasted two hours, starting at 7pm, so, if I was planning any lessons for the following day, that didn't happen.

Early on in my career as a serial school governor, I went to a massive school governors' meeting at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and listened, amongst other things, to Joan Sallis talk. Joan was a pioneer parent-governor in the UK, and she talked about the philosophy of governance and the role of governor, as that of a "critical friend".  I bought into this; I recognised that we would not have decision-making powers, and didn't really have any responsibilities but we would listen as the headteacher thought aloud about her day to day decisions.

Rita the Head did allow us to challenge her; on one occasion we came to a 7:8 vote about not publishing our SATS results. But she was the supremo; it was her school and we were her critical friends. We listened; we discussed and then she decided.

So, when a head tells a member of staff that the governors are worried about x, or y or z.  .. what's that about ? That's the head or the Finance Officer shifting the blame in order to get the result.

Then, as Foxwood School was being closed I became a school governor there. A few years with Royal Park had taught me to believe in myself; an immense injustice for a member of Foxwood staff on top of the injustice of closing Foxwood itself made me give up more 7 till 9pms on a week night, and this time in Seacroft, not down the road Hyde Park.

I didn't volunteer any more of the 7 till 9s until I found them laying in wait for me at reception at City of Leeds School.  And actually achieved very little, even as a "critical friend" until I was able to join with the various campaigns to save the school, mostly, it would seem, from becoming nice near town centre premises for Education Leeds. And, I'm glad to say that that particular company doesn't need premises anywhere anymore. Shame.

And also, you're generally safe from being kidnapped into a governing body once your youngest child is past school age. It's parent-governors in the inner-city that are in short supply.

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