Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In the Talking Shop

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

In the Talking Shop

Article excerpt

As I glance at the assembled governors, a subtle game of cat and mouse gets under way. My mission, as chair, is to get through our agenda effectively. I have visualised a meeting of an hour and a half's duration, full of robust discussion that results in clear conclusions to which we are all committed. But I know that lurking among our number is a car park enthusiast.

Such governors obtain perverse pleasure from taking the floor at unexpected moments. I once watched a chair of finance pause to draw breath in the closing moments of the budget presentation when an interjection stopped him dead.

"All this money for extra teaching is great but I'm really worried about the car park. I heard about an incident just yesterday when a parent drove in too quickly. What are we going to do about that?"

With the moment seized and apparently shocking new information shared, I was helpless to prevent what followed. For the next 40 minutes, we rehashed a vintage discussion - what to do about the school's car park?

It is not always the car park. At some schools the same function will be performed by minor issues relating to the uniform or historic relations with neighbouring secondaries; poor support from the local authority or the baleful trajectory of education policy.

These are the subjects on which every governor has a heartfelt opinion, debate about which simply cannot be concluded in a useful way. Such discussions are to purposeful meetings as a burst artery is to the circulatory system.

But car park issues have a power all their own. …

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