East Lancashire needs more school governors

Simon Jones

Simon Jones

First published in News Burnley and Pendle Citizen: Photograph of the Author by , Education reporter

SCHOOL governor jobs are going unfilled because of increasing pressures being placed on the role, according to educators.

Headteachers, governors and union representatives said schools in East Lancashire were seeing governors expected to fulfill a more ‘professional’ role.

It comes as the campaign group Governors for Schools claimed there were 30,000 vacant school governor positions nationally.

East Lancashire NUT representative Simon Jones said a number of school governing bodies had also been criticised by Ofsted.

He said: “It seems the government is now going after governors. They are not professionals and it seems unfair to be picking on these people who have well meaning intentions.”

Ofsted now requires governors to hold headteachers and other senior staff to account. Amongst their responsibilities, school governors appoint headteachers and are responsible for deciding a school's admission policy.

They are also involved in signing off a school budget.

Headteacher of Accrington’s Mount Carmel High School, Xavier Bowers, said the role had changed.

He said: “The expectation and accountability of governors has massively increased.

“It is a voluntary, not a paid post, and they have busy lives themselves, and families.

“However it is becoming an increasingly big commitment to take on.”

Diocese school governor for St Leonards Primary in Billington and Ribble Valley councillor Ged Mirfin said he thought the day was nearing when governors would need payment.

He added: “It is increasingly a much more professional role than it used to be and I think that is a good thing.

“I would like to see a situation where more time could be dedicated, and I think governors will soon need remuneration.”

Hyndburn mayor Judith Addison, who is governor at three of the borough’s schools, said: “I do think a lot of responsibility falls upon governors. That’s why it is hard to get people to volunteer.

“It is particularly hard to get parent governors as they think it is about helping out at fetes. The reality is the amount of paperwork and educational acronyms would make anybody’s head spin.

”Ultimately, we are lay people with other commitments, but as more governance is needed, I don’t know what the answer will be.”

Comments (1)

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6:26pm Tue 7 Jan 14

badref says...

This is a really significant news story for those involved in education. It is absolutely true that the demands on governance by Ofsted and the DfE are intensifying annually. In past times the role of governor was more akin to that of a trustee. Now the demands are more like those on a director of a multi-million pound business. Not only does this call for greater expertise in certain areas such as data analysis, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic goal-setting, it also necessitates an increased presence in school and occupies a substantial amount of time.

Most governors have families or work commitments and have to balance those with these evolving claims on their time.This is acknowledged by the regulatory body and the government supposedly sympathises yet there has certainly been no suggestion thus far that governors are adequately compensated. Personally I spend several hours a week on governing matters. Due to electronic media some of that can be conducted at distance but inevitably there are requirements to be in school during term time which subsequently necessitates me taking leave (there is statutory provision for employers to release staff but I don't want to risk losing goodwill).

Will I continue to commit such hours and energy to my role? Yes I will irrespective of any future payment or otherwise. Money is not my main worry. The overriding concern, and one that is worrying many governors and creating significant pressure, is that an inspection can conclude that our children are safe, happy, and achieving in classrooms led by inspirational professionals. However, if governance does not meet the required standard, the overall rating of the school can be significantly impaired with potentially irrevocable damage to its reputation in the local community. That is turn can affect the size of the roll and thus, by extenison its allocated resources.

It is this huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of passionate, well-meaning, but ultimately amateur or lay members of our local communities that is the big concern. Nobody argues with the need for some form of testing and some form of inspection regime. But for two people to spend two days out of five years in a school and judge its effectiveness on that wholly inappropriate level of scrutiny seems grossly unfair. We need to look beyond mere league tables and lessons taught in isolation, We need to integrate into any inspection the reputation of the school, the safety and happiness of its children, the "value added" element it offers, and its extra-curricular provision.

Governors in our school believe our purpose is to create a strategic framework that allows each child to perform to its best, and to offer something at which each can excel. We want each child to.leave our school as tolerant, respectful, well-rounded, and law-abiding citizens. Sadly OFSTED will not judge us on those laudable values but will instead criticise us should we fail to comprehend two sub-levels of progress on a data dashboard. We need to test. We need to inspect. We need to improve teaching and learning. We need to be held accountable. However we are in danger of obsessing about these elements and forgetting that our core and enduring responsibilty will always be children. Happy smiling children.
This is a really significant news story for those involved in education. It is absolutely true that the demands on governance by Ofsted and the DfE are intensifying annually. In past times the role of governor was more akin to that of a trustee. Now the demands are more like those on a director of a multi-million pound business. Not only does this call for greater expertise in certain areas such as data analysis, monitoring and evaluation, and strategic goal-setting, it also necessitates an increased presence in school and occupies a substantial amount of time. Most governors have families or work commitments and have to balance those with these evolving claims on their time.This is acknowledged by the regulatory body and the government supposedly sympathises yet there has certainly been no suggestion thus far that governors are adequately compensated. Personally I spend several hours a week on governing matters. Due to electronic media some of that can be conducted at distance but inevitably there are requirements to be in school during term time which subsequently necessitates me taking leave (there is statutory provision for employers to release staff but I don't want to risk losing goodwill). Will I continue to commit such hours and energy to my role? Yes I will irrespective of any future payment or otherwise. Money is not my main worry. The overriding concern, and one that is worrying many governors and creating significant pressure, is that an inspection can conclude that our children are safe, happy, and achieving in classrooms led by inspirational professionals. However, if governance does not meet the required standard, the overall rating of the school can be significantly impaired with potentially irrevocable damage to its reputation in the local community. That is turn can affect the size of the roll and thus, by extenison its allocated resources. It is this huge responsibility placed on the shoulders of passionate, well-meaning, but ultimately amateur or lay members of our local communities that is the big concern. Nobody argues with the need for some form of testing and some form of inspection regime. But for two people to spend two days out of five years in a school and judge its effectiveness on that wholly inappropriate level of scrutiny seems grossly unfair. We need to look beyond mere league tables and lessons taught in isolation, We need to integrate into any inspection the reputation of the school, the safety and happiness of its children, the "value added" element it offers, and its extra-curricular provision. Governors in our school believe our purpose is to create a strategic framework that allows each child to perform to its best, and to offer something at which each can excel. We want each child to.leave our school as tolerant, respectful, well-rounded, and law-abiding citizens. Sadly OFSTED will not judge us on those laudable values but will instead criticise us should we fail to comprehend two sub-levels of progress on a data dashboard. We need to test. We need to inspect. We need to improve teaching and learning. We need to be held accountable. However we are in danger of obsessing about these elements and forgetting that our core and enduring responsibilty will always be children. Happy smiling children. badref
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