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My first post in my capacity as a school governor!
In readiness for a course that I will be running for the first time on ‘The Role of the Staff Governor’, I was thinking about what a difficult role it is from the point of view of potential conflicts of interest and the various ‘hats’ one would need to wear in different situations and contexts. I think that similar challenges exist for all school governors but are particularly accute for parents and staff members of the GB – with staff perhaps edging it in this respect.

I thought I would gather some interesting and challenging scenarios and dilemmas to present to delegates on my course in order to provoke some discussion. This is something I have always done on my course for parent governors and some excellent conversations inevitably follow! I have asked colleagues and my Twitter network and come up with the following:

1. Your headteacher comes to you with diary open to ask to put in some dates for the both of you to meet prior to governors meetings to discuss the upcoming agendas. How do you respond? roulette uk

2. A staff colleague asks you how you will be voting and says to you, “You know, don’t you, what the majority of staff think about this. You need to represent us by voting our way at the meeting.” You don’t share the majority view. What do you say? How will you vote?

3. A staff colleague approaches you insisting that you raise the issue of the broken staff-room fridge at governors. How do you respond? What if it is the issue of the dangerous paving in the staff car park?

4. A staff colleague sits down next to you in the staff room and starts moaning and slagging off a parent (who is a governor) suggesting they must be dreadful in governors meetings. How do you respond?

5. In a governors meeting, the Headteacher is reporting on the progress of pupils. You become aware that the data has been ‘spruced up’ in a way that you think is deceptive or gives a misleading message to governors. What do you do?

6. A curriculum leader or Head of Department is invited to report to governors about developments in their subject/department. There are some fundamental inaccuracies that you are aware of. What do you do?

7. Another (non-staff) governor asks you your opinion of one of your teaching colleagues. They say they have a right to know about the quality of teaching because OFSTED expect governors to know this stuff now.

8. You are in the supermarket when a parent sidles up to you saying, “You’re a governor up at the school aren’t you? I hope you don’t mind me saying but I’ve got a real problem with that last letter the Headteacher sent out. It was…” How do you respond?

9. You are in the supermarket when a parent sidles up to you saying, “You’re a governor up at the school aren’t you? I’ve heard that there’s a real problem with bullying/drugs at the school. Is this true? What are governors doing about it?” How do you respond?

I would love you to suggest any more in the comments but would also very much welcome your responses to the scenarios! Please do contribute!

The Twitter discussion went off on a slight tangent into a discussion as to whether or not governing bodies should have staff representation at all, or indeed parent representation. At that point, I had to attend a committee meeting (at which we were presented with a report from the Head of Maths…). Please see my other post on the challenges facing parent governors.

Amongst all the people who have helped, I am grateful to the following Twitterers:
@chilledteaching @balance_ec @runsworth @global_teacher
@sugaredpill @ideas_factory @andyisatwork
@cwcomm1 @5N_afzal @ingotian

and to Julia Manzerova on Flickr for the image.

15 thoughts on “Torn

  1. Interesting scenarios! I always think that it is so important that both staff and parent governors appreciate that they are a representative staff member or parent rather than someone representing the views of all staff or parents. The other important point is that the Governing Body works as a team of people and individuals should not be interacting with individuals on their own. Reading the scenarios has made me appreciate my Governors!

  2. Well, I’m not a teacher or a governor, but know several of both and an issue I have seen raise it’s head is when parent governors want to focus on an issue about school aesthetics – eg what the school entrance looks like and sees this as a bigger issue than perhaps the academic issues a staff governor might see to be the focus. How do governors strike a balance between the issues they each see as a priority for the school?

    • Thank you, Karen. You have identified one of the key tensions for school governors of every kind – the separation of operational (day-to-day management) matters and the real business with which governors should concern themselves – strategic matters.

      In another course, I liken schools to football clubs and get governors to consider their role as that of the board. A role that should involve them in sharing the vision for the club, the recruitment of the manager, financial management and probity etc. In the most effective and successful clubs, the board don’t involve themselves with matchday tactics and the picking of the team, purchase of footballs, colours of the training socks etc.

      The worst example I have heard of this kind of misguidedness is a 45 minute discussion at full governors meeting about the colour of dinner trays… The mind boggles!

  3. I agree to the mind-boggling nature of the dinner tray example, but these tensions will exist until staff governors surely understand where some parent governors are coming from.

    Whereas it is obviously not strategic to discuss dinner trays, my kids local school recently benefited hugely from a new parent governor who forced through spend on a significant improvement to the main school entrance with a huge mosaic and fancy gates and fencing, where the previous administration had already approved spend on some ordinary plain fencing where it had been highlighted that the school was not sufficiently safe as the original fencing was not high enough . The school environment can be considered strategic – it’s like marketing for the school I guess, no? Even if it’s not, there has been an undeniable and community-wide approval for what was done, which in turn reflects positively on the governing body. Most changes a governing body can affect are not visible and as such, there is surely an argument for a degree of ‘quick win’ or very visible improvements from a governing body (as long as the related discussions are dealt with a tad more swiftly!) rtg casino canada

    One should ask why parent governors get involved and it is surely the fault of all concerned at the meeting you mention (mainly whoever was chairing) to not simply let that discussion come and go and be dealt with, ie it is not simple enough to say that the governor who raised the issue was wrong to raise it – that doesn’t help. It will happen again and again. What is needed then, is perhaps more support and training from staff governors to their parent governor colleagues, but also training for staff governors as to how to deal with such issues. Simply telling an enthusiastic parent governor that their issue is not relevant to the meeting, can and will only ever lead to either that governor shutting up on all matters/leaving or a 45 min conversation where he/she beligerently waits until they feel they’ve been heard.

    • Thank you so much for your excellent comments, Karen. You are absolutely right, so much about governance is neither black nor white which is why training, networking, support, but perhaps most importantly, experience are all key.

      Competent, experienced chairs can also ensure that business is kept brisk and focussed as you point out. I would also finally say that effective committee structures and the way they work can take some of those (important) more protracted discussions away from full governors’ meetings. Maybe committee is the place for the fencing discussion?

      Thanks again!

  4. I wonder if, when there is a vacancy for staff governors, the Chair of Governors should come into the school and address the staff and explain what the role is. If the CoG made it clear that once their colleague was elected, then he/she was a governor like the others on the board. The staff governor is not there to represent or look out for staff interests (that’s for the Union Rep!). This will have two advantages; those interested in the role will be clear what the role actually is and it would be easier for the CoG to spell out that the governor isn’t a staff representative on the GB and hence eliminate the need for the staff governor to have this touchy conversation with colleagues. A similar approach could work for parent governors.

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  5. Nice idea this!

    How about … Being met in the local supermarket by a parent acquaintance jovially detailing an “innocuous” concern expressed by school with respect to her child’s inappropriate behaviour, she slowly but surely begins a derisory assessment of the crap SEN support at the school for her child. As the light hearted chat moves towards a barbed slight of the SEN teacher, you feel uncomfortable. When it starts to become a tainted view of the school, the Head, not their parenting (of course), supervision at breaks, etc. at what point do you deflect or redirect to a formal complaints procedure?

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    • Brilliant one! As I said earlier in the comments, governance is often more grey than black and white and this scenario perfectly exemplifies this. Knowing the point at which to raise the hand and say politely, “I’m sorry. I’m going to have to stop you there.” is all part of the deal.
      Thank you for a great comment.

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  6. Sorry, folks, but the whole point of the election process is that the elected person will represent the interests of the electors on the GB. They are not delegates, certainly, but of course they should reflect what staff think. It may come to a position where the staff governor says, “You need to know that the staff overwhelmingly think A; I think B and that’s how I will vote.”. I have been training staff governors for (whoops) nearly 20 years and this false representation – that staff and parent governors shouldn’t ‘represent’ their constituencies – is still peddled by heads and chairs, so that they can avoid recognising the authority with which these governors may speak. They are not there to represent individual staff, certainly, but they should: publish the meeting agenda to staff and invite views on the key items; clarify at the meeting when they are informing the GB of staff views and when they are speaking for themselves; ensure that when they vote, they are doing so in the interests, as they see it, of the whole school, not merely the staff; report back to staff as soon after the meeting as possible; ensure that the staff understand the role and business of the GB. Of course, they are not union reps, and job-related issues should be taken up by individuals or union reps, but to suggest that elected governors are not there to represent the views of their electors is pernicious, anti-democratic nonsense. Don’t fall for it!

  7. Dughall, Here’s some key questions I have used with staff governors, and ask them to take them back to the school to share with the rest of the governing body. It enables the GB to have shape about the way it deals with members’ issues, rather than relying on knee-jerk reactions while the meeting is on and a contentious item appears. I recommend its usage!


    Questions for staff/teacher governors:

    • Do you find out and clearly express the range of views of the staff on various issues? video poker download

    • Do you also express your own view on those same issues even if it is different from the majority staff view?

    • Do you accept responsibility to inform your governing body of important information, even if it conflicts with the headteacher?

    • Do you accept responsibility to help the head explain the school (and the curriculum) to the governing body?

    • Do you show that you respect the views of lay governors?

    • Do you see yourself as a governor who has some valuable insights as a staff member?

    Questions for other members of the governing body:

    For the Chair:
    • Do you have the same expectations of confidentiality in your staff governors as in any other member of the governing body?
    • Do you make space for staff governors to give their views rather than assuming that the head has provided the ‘professional’ opinion?
    • Do you encourage staff governors to (collect and) report staff views?
    • Are you sensitive to the possibility that teacher governors may wish to present a different view from the headteacher’s, but may be reluctant to show open dissent – particularly over issues that they have not had time to prepare?
    • Do you make an effort to break down any suggestion that the staff governors are not full members of the governing body with equal rights to other governors?

    Questions for the headteacher:
    • Are you prepared for staff governors to disagree with you? Especially in governing body meetings?
    • Do you encourage and enable the staff governors to make reports to staff and to collect their views?

    Questions for other governors:
    • Do you assume that the head knows everything there is to know about the school?
    • Do you operate on the assumption that all your colleagues on the governing body have equal rights and equally valid views?
    • Do you see staff governors as governors who have valuable inside knowledge?

  8. I’d be happier about headteachers talking to staff about the role of staff governor if I were sure what they’d say. I have experienced too many occasions where heads have said, “Say nothing in oppoosition to me” and “You are not there to represent the staff” and so on – and chairs saying the same too. It would be useful to build in time for staff governors with some experience of such events to talk about them. How many have been called in to the office the morning after a meeting (as my own partner was once) to be hauled over the coals for asking a question or expressing a view? I used to introduce the topic by saying that staff governors need to have two characteristics: No fear . . . and no ambition. This may be overly cynical – good staff governors are often getting experience of leadership, and there are many good heads around who welcome different views being expressed at meetings – but sadly there are still many of the other type, too. Just ask!

  9. Pingback: Dilemma! | In a roundabout way

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