Governors – friend or foe?

It is always sad when a relationship comes to an end. You battle to keep it alive, making excuses as to why it will get better if only… Then comes the point when you have to accept it is broken beyond mending. There is that proverbial straw that breaks not your back but your resolve and so you go.

I resigned as Chair of a federation this week and it has made me very sad. The federation was made up of two schools, both in difficult circumstances having Ofsted categories placed on them recently. The spectre of academisation is looming so it was important for us all to work together and that was the rub. The ‘ALL’ should include the school and the Governors but whilst one has a different agenda to the other that was going to be hard and in this case impossible.

The role of the governing body has gone from being a ‘Vicar of Dibley’ type group who come along to fêtes and fairs & give out prizes or says ‘Yes, yes, yes’ with never a ‘no’ to the head to a body held accountable for standards and progress of children. Those expectations are so extreme that it is unbelievable to think that the same people would do them!

The new Ofsted framework appears to play down the governor role but it seems to be one of those situations where if it is going well, they are not mentioned but if they have had little or no impact on the school and are not providing a suitable experience for the children they can take the blame for most things. The removal of a governing body, once rarely heard of, is now, if not a regular occurrence, at least not so unusual.

These changes seem to have happened ‘behind closed doors’ with little publicity despite there being consultation on some of the matters. So, what has this all to do with my resignation? It is basically due to the understanding of the school not moving with the times. Gone are the times of the messianic Head teacher who delivers the plans and takes on all responsibilities issuing governors with a fait accompli.

An efficient and effective Governing body can have a huge impact on a school’s progress. However they have to be given the opportunity to do their job. For me the constant questioning and pedantic attitude of senior leaders gradually chipped away at my energy and enthusiasm. It prevented the rest of the GB learning and developing as a unified entity.

So what could be done? How can the new role of governors be embraced by schools so that they can provide the support and challenge that is required without being considered as an obstruction to progress? Let me know and I’ll remember it for next time!

What is the relationship between your Governors and leadership teams? Could it be better?

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