Step Forward and Make a Difference to Young People and Their Futures; There Are 40,000 Vacancies for Governors across England and Wales. Simon Farrington, Deputy Chair of Governors at Ysgol Maes Dyfan Special School in Barry and a Governor for the Past Decade, Highlights the Challenges Facing Schools and Their Governing Bodies and Issues a Plea for More People to Step Forward
Byline: Simon Farrington
Dropping through the letterbox at my Vale of Glamorgan home a letter arrives from the local comprehensive school. In it is a slip of paper with a list of eminent doctors, accountants, lawyers, consultants, business owners, housewives with profession qualifications as long as your arm, all queuing up to take up a solitary vacancy as a parent governor slot falls free.
Sometimes that list would have as many as eight names on as little Huw's mam or dad fight for a close-up say in their offspring's education. PTA is one thing, and vital for funding the nice-to-haves for a school, but the real prize is a seat at the headteacher's right hand.
And here lies the crux of the problem: successful governing bodies require a balance of skills; an accountant to pick up the nuances of a balance sheet, a lawyer to understand the increasingly complex legal issues that can challenge a school, senior management experience to question and challenge a headteacher's plans, support strategic thinking and lead interview processes, and most important of all, parents, to reflect the heartbeat of a school - the children themselves.
Above all, you require one governor to "step forward" to take up the head of governors hot seat, somebody who can mercurially blend this disparate band of individual talents and a headteacher into a cohesive force. And remember, this is an unpaid job!
This crucial role requires additional skills: forming a strong bond and good working relationship with a headteacher, giving that head the scope and room to manage the day-to-day running of a school, recognising their professional skills in doing that, but also succinctly reminding the headteacher that he or she is answerable to a board of governors.
Bear in mind that this is a exam result target-driven headteacher - on a salary scale up to a pounds 100,000 - who manages daily the running of more than 50 staff, 1,500 pupils and anything upwards of a pounds 5m budget, and yet is appointed by, and answerable to, a team of lay people whose association with the school could be little more than a couple of hours each term.
Yet this relationship between head and chairman of governors shapes the future of the school. If it breaks down, the school inevitably suffers. And while a headteacher will sit on an appointment committee for every other teaching role in the school, it will often be a minimum of three governors who have the ultimate responsibility of appointing a head, albeit with the support of the local education authority who can "advise". …