Governors’ Corner!

This occasional series sprang out of a chat with my dear friend Dianne Spencer She is a brilliant head teacher leading her team to provide some amazing educational experiences for their pupils. This space is about and for school governors, one of the most underrated sections of leadership in our schools today. It is here for you to share so please leave a comment with your views and any topics you might like to explore!

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Governor Training

How do you get people who are volunteers to undertake training for something they do in their spare time?

Well firstly I suppose, you have to convince them that it is a vital role and not just a civic duty. It is really important that schools and Governors understand that their role is no longer restricted to just turning up at meetings. An active and informed Governing body can really move a school forward. As a Governor in two schools (Chair in one), I have undergone a series of training provided by my Local Authority and have used this to role model for my fellow governors. Many of them have been surprised that having been a head teacher I should do any training. It has been great to see it all from the ‘other side’ of the table.

Something that has been very useful is a skills audit. It consists of a series of questions about governors’ knowledge of the school with a tick box with choices ranging from inadequate to fully embedded.  All Governors have completed it and it has been collated to show where the gaps in understanding lie across the whole Governing body. From this, it has been possible to draw up a Governors Development Plan which hopefully will link into the school’s SDP.

From the other side, trying to get Governors to engage generally and go on training can be a frustrating and tiring activity for a head teacher. One strategy that I used which was quite successful was to ask a specific governor a specific question based on the paperwork they had been sent. I made myself wait in the silence (you know how teachers hate silence!). It was quite uncomfortable for us all but it didn’t happen again! All the governors had at least skimmed the papers so that they could be part of a discussion.

How do you get governors to engage in training and at meetings? If you are a school governor, what are your experiences of this area of your work? Should it be compulsory?

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  • Blimey, I’m glad I’m not on your GB. The strategy you use for getting governors to engage sounds little short of being back in the third form. LOL. I’m not sure of the value of embarrassing volunteers into reading their stuff. No doubt there are lots of governance puritans who would disagree with me on that score.
    I’m a big believer in training and yes, I think it should be compulsory for all governors to attend an induction course. I think staff governors in particular are under-represented on governor training, thinking perhaps they don’t need to do it. In my experience, they do!

      

    • Anonymous

      They were used to my cunning plans & some agreed it helped ‘persuade’ them to read the papers. Good point about staff govs. I might suggest that at both my schools! Thank you for popping in!

        

  • Blimey, I’m glad I’m not on your GB. The strategy you use for getting governors to engage sounds little short of being back in the third form. LOL. I’m not sure of the value of embarrassing volunteers into reading their stuff. No doubt there are lots of governance puritans who would disagree with me on that score.
    I’m a big believer in training and yes, I think it should be compulsory for all governors to attend an induction course. I think staff governors in particular are under-represented on governor training, thinking perhaps they don’t need to do it. In my experience, they do!

      

    • Anonymous

      They were used to my cunning plans & some agreed it helped ‘persuade’ them to read the papers. Good point about staff govs. I might suggest that at both my schools! Thank you for popping in!

        

    • Anonymous

      They were used to my cunning plans & some agreed it helped ‘persuade’ them to read the papers. Good point about staff govs. I might suggest that at both my schools! Thank you for popping in!

        

  • Jomica

    I don’t think it’s the headteacher’s job to encourage governors to engage or train: it’s the chair of governors job, though I could see why a HT might find it frustrating.

    In my position (as a CoG) I find it quite frustrating when the HT at my school thinks she runs the governing body! We’ve had one or two interesting conversations on that line already. Assuming the HT has decided to become a governor – and it is their right to opt out (though why they would, I don’t know) – he or she is an equal with all other governors.

    Sometimes I think HTs should “chill” a bit and accept that the CoG is going to chair meetings and be “first among equals”. It’s one area where a HT can supply information and debate as an equal, rather than being top dog as s/he is in school with the staff, and enjoy the experience of being among like minded people who only want the best for the school.

      

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately, not all CoG are up with the game like you S! Thank you so much for stopping by! Hope you’ll find it useful!

        

    • curricadvocate

      This is great when the CoG is informed and understands how the strategic role fits in with the operational role. I agree that the CoG should be the one who runs the GB, but I do think a GB runs effectively when there is a good relationship between the Cog, HT and the Clerk. Getting a good Clerk who is fully conversant with the law, and can ensure that the GB are given information in good time to read, digest and contribute.

        

      • Anonymous

        Hello! Thank you for visiting! I do agree that relevant & timely papers are vital for govs. We have a delay sometimes because the HT does not agree things or prepare thepapers. Everything is then rushed & not fully discussed.

          

        • curricuadvocate

          One of the most significant pressure points in the term for me has always been the week before the 7 day deadline for getting papers prepared. However, the effort was always worthwhile as good decisions were taken at the meeting, and were taken more efficiently. A more efficient meeting was always desirable – by the end of a full GB meeting I had been at school for almost 14 hours (and I always appreciated that the Govs had also been at work during the day!!).

            

    • Clevinger

      I agree it’s the CoG job, but I must admit I find it just as frustrating as JFB to get my lot to go. I do think that induction training should be compulsory as should a refresher every couple of years for everyone on the GB I’d also like to see an induction for chairs and vice’s for the FGB and committees. I really do fear for the training budget though, in my bit of the public sector, which usually runs a year or two ahead of education, training has been pared to the bone already and the non essential (as I fear Governors will be classed in the wider Ed picture) stuff mothballed. We have a responsibility to training ourselves and as CoG, especially with a good relationship with the Head and Clerk, there is the chance to sweet talk an LA official or two that does training to coming in and present to a meeting or sites like the moderngovernor that can be put up on an IWB for all to see.

      there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

      (disclaimer – no cats were hurt in the posting of this reply)

        

      • Anonymous

        I agree that in house training is often the best for attendance. We need to be creative I think. Thank you so much for popping in. Do let me know if there’s anything you’d like discussed or explored!

          

      • Anonymous

        Oh….and I’m very pleased about the feline situation!

          

  • Jomica

    I don’t think it’s the headteacher’s job to encourage governors to engage or train: it’s the chair of governors job, though I could see why a HT might find it frustrating.

    In my position (as a CoG) I find it quite frustrating when the HT at my school thinks she runs the governing body! We’ve had one or two interesting conversations on that line already. Assuming the HT has decided to become a governor – and it is their right to opt out (though why they would, I don’t know) – he or she is an equal with all other governors.

    Sometimes I think HTs should “chill” a bit and accept that the CoG is going to chair meetings and be “first among equals”. It’s one area where a HT can supply information and debate as an equal, rather than being top dog as s/he is in school with the staff, and enjoy the experience of being among like minded people who only want the best for the school.

      

    • Anonymous

      Unfortunately, not all CoG are up with the game like you S! Thank you so much for stopping by! Hope you’ll find it useful!

        

    • curricadvocate

      This is great when the CoG is informed and understands how the strategic role fits in with the operational role. I agree that the CoG should be the one who runs the GB, but I do think a GB runs effectively when there is a good relationship between the Cog, HT and the Clerk. Getting a good Clerk who is fully conversant with the law, and can ensure that the GB are given information in good time to read, digest and contribute.

        

      • Anonymous

        Hello! Thank you for visiting! I do agree that relevant & timely papers are vital for govs. We have a delay sometimes because the HT does not agree things or prepare thepapers. Everything is then rushed & not fully discussed.

          

        • curricuadvocate

          One of the most significant pressure points in the term for me has always been the week before the 7 day deadline for getting papers prepared. However, the effort was always worthwhile as good decisions were taken at the meeting, and were taken more efficiently. A more efficient meeting was always desirable – by the end of a full GB meeting I had been at school for almost 14 hours (and I always appreciated that the Govs had also been at work during the day!!).

            

    • Clevinger

      I agree it’s the CoG job, but I must admit I find it just as frustrating as JFB to get my lot to go. I do think that induction training should be compulsory as should a refresher every couple of years for everyone on the GB I’d also like to see an induction for chairs and vice’s for the FGB and committees. I really do fear for the training budget though, in my bit of the public sector, which usually runs a year or two ahead of education, training has been pared to the bone already and the non essential (as I fear Governors will be classed in the wider Ed picture) stuff mothballed. We have a responsibility to training ourselves and as CoG, especially with a good relationship with the Head and Clerk, there is the chance to sweet talk an LA official or two that does training to coming in and present to a meeting or sites like the moderngovernor that can be put up on an IWB for all to see.

      there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

      (disclaimer – no cats were hurt in the posting of this reply)

        

  • Jomica

    I don’t think it’s the headteacher’s job to encourage governors to engage or train: it’s the chair of governors job, though I could see why a HT might find it frustrating.

    In my position (as a CoG) I find it quite frustrating when the HT at my school thinks she runs the governing body! We’ve had one or two interesting conversations on that line already. Assuming the HT has decided to become a governor – and it is their right to opt out (though why they would, I don’t know) – he or she is an equal with all other governors.

    Sometimes I think HTs should “chill” a bit and accept that the CoG is going to chair meetings and be “first among equals”. It’s one area where a HT can supply information and debate as an equal, rather than being top dog as s/he is in school with the staff, and enjoy the experience of being among like minded people who only want the best for the school.

      

  • Dianne Spencer

    Thank you so much Julia! And what a great blog idea! I shall be following your pearls of wisdom very closely. In an ideal world all governors would attend training and would keep up to date! We need to use as much gentle persuasion as possible to encourage them to keep both staff and governors abreast of all things new(well the important bits!). Keep up the good work. We do appreciate you!

      

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! It’s good to be of service. I think when govs see that they are valued & have a role to play that can often spur them on to get more involved & go for training. Let me know if there are any other areas you fancy airing!

        

  • Dianne Spencer

    Thank you so much Julia! And what a great blog idea! I shall be following your pearls of wisdom very closely. In an ideal world all governors would attend training and would keep up to date! We need to use as much gentle persuasion as possible to encourage them to keep both staff and governors abreast of all things new(well the important bits!). Keep up the good work. We do appreciate you!

      

    • Anonymous

      Thank you! It’s good to be of service. I think when govs see that they are valued & have a role to play that can often spur them on to get more involved & go for training. Let me know if there are any other areas you fancy airing!

        

  • I have to admit that until last September I had attended more governors training as the trainer than as the trainee. I think that I joined the governing body at my children’s school because I felt that I had specific talents and knowledge through my work. It was only when I became chair of a committee that was out of my rea of expertise that I realised the value of broader training.

    there is an arguement that governors should access independent as well as LA training. We don’t want to be lead down the garden path do we?

    Both the schools that I m a member of do actually have decent attendance at training events. Staff governors from both schools attended the annual governors conferences in the respective authorities.

    Possibly the timing of training causes difficulties. I do find some of the on-line stuff beneficial but some is a bit wishy washy.

    At the end of the day, we are talking about volunteers whether they are staff, parents et al. If they bring something to the table that is useful and additional to what you already have then scaring them off by focing them to go on training is probably counter productive.

      

    • Anonymous

      Some good points there Ian. I do agree that it is good to have an ‘outside of the LA’ flavour sometimes. The problem of costs often makes that difficult though. Great to see you here!

        

  • I have to admit that until last September I had attended more governors training as the trainer than as the trainee. I think that I joined the governing body at my children’s school because I felt that I had specific talents and knowledge through my work. It was only when I became chair of a committee that was out of my rea of expertise that I realised the value of broader training.

    there is an arguement that governors should access independent as well as LA training. We don’t want to be lead down the garden path do we?

    Both the schools that I m a member of do actually have decent attendance at training events. Staff governors from both schools attended the annual governors conferences in the respective authorities.

    Possibly the timing of training causes difficulties. I do find some of the on-line stuff beneficial but some is a bit wishy washy.

    At the end of the day, we are talking about volunteers whether they are staff, parents et al. If they bring something to the table that is useful and additional to what you already have then scaring them off by focing them to go on training is probably counter productive.

      

    • Anonymous

      Some good points there Ian. I do agree that it is good to have an ‘outside of the LA’ flavour sometimes. The problem of costs often makes that difficult though. Great to see you here!

        

    • Anonymous

      Some good points there Ian. I do agree that it is good to have an ‘outside of the LA’ flavour sometimes. The problem of costs often makes that difficult though. Great to see you here!

        

  • I have to admit that until last September I had attended more governors training as the trainer than as the trainee. I think that I joined the governing body at my children’s school because I felt that I had specific talents and knowledge through my work. It was only when I became chair of a committee that was out of my rea of expertise that I realised the value of broader training.

    there is an arguement that governors should access independent as well as LA training. We don’t want to be lead down the garden path do we?

    Both the schools that I m a member of do actually have decent attendance at training events. Staff governors from both schools attended the annual governors conferences in the respective authorities.

    Possibly the timing of training causes difficulties. I do find some of the on-line stuff beneficial but some is a bit wishy washy.

    At the end of the day, we are talking about volunteers whether they are staff, parents et al. If they bring something to the table that is useful and additional to what you already have then scaring them off by focing them to go on training is probably counter productive.

      

  • Governors may be interested to compare some of the audit tools available from Clerk to Governors (http://clerktogovernors.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/audit-of-skills-and-training-needs/) I have yet to see the definitive set of skills that governing bodies might need, if they are considering recruiting new governors to complete their skill set, but an audit may throw up certain areas for training needs, or seeking particular input from a sponsor governor, perhaps.

      

  • Governors may be interested to compare some of the audit tools available from Clerk to Governors (http://clerktogovernors.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/audit-of-skills-and-training-needs/) I have yet to see the definitive set of skills that governing bodies might need, if they are considering recruiting new governors to complete their skill set, but an audit may throw up certain areas for training needs, or seeking particular input from a sponsor governor, perhaps.

      

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