The Reality of Life at the Sharp End for a Key Player; OPINION: Need for Assembly to Study Responsibility of School Governors

Article excerpt

Byline: PETER GRIFFIN

IT WOULD be reassuring if one could believe that reforms in the education system, begun in 1986 with new responsibilities for school governors, were the components of a clear vision of the future.

At the time, it looked and felt like separate measures dealing with separate issues. It also felt occasionally vindictive, depending, of course, on where you were sitting.

More responsibilities for governors had all the characteristics of a sideswipe at local authorities.

A National Curriculum would put an end to so-called progressive theories; testing would label schools good or bad, irrespective of the local difficulties; parents would feel a rosy glow, given the freedom to queue at the gates of an apparently successful school.

Years down the line, we still have a National Curriculum, albeit not the one we started with, and it is no longer a heresy to mention alternative curricula, to match particular needs.

Teachers' concerns in 1988 over political control of the curriculum have changed into a more practical concern about the sheer weight of the curriculum, and its concomitant demands of preparation and record-keeping.

In 1986, governors were required to decide, largely on the advice of the head teacher, how much could be spent on a limited range of options. In 2002, governors conduct a review of the head teacher's achievement of personal professional targets for the purpose of deciding the head teacher's salary.

If the apparently disparate components of the system have modified and developed over the years, one clear purpose has certainly emerged, to which they all contribute. Every single school must now find its own salvation.

The system in general may be the stuff of political debate, but the successes and failures of individual schools are precise and public.

Seeking one's own salvation is more practically described as a policy of school improvement. It requires that each school keeps its performance under continuous review; that the decisions which address its needs should be defined in the School Development Plan;

that the governing body should keep the School Development Plan under regular scrutiny.

These are requirements that are taken seriously. Teachers assume responsibility for leadership in particular subjects, researching both the subject and teaching materials, helping and advising colleagues.

The process, from classroom decisions about teaching and learning, to review and discussion in the governing body, is genuine accountability in practice, and is conveyed to parents in the annual report.

There are 26,000 volunteer governors in Wales. A governing body is required to be representative of parents, the LEA, teaching staff, non-teaching staff and coopted members representing particular aspects of the local community. …