Due to being away for a couple of weeks (did I mention the beautiful weather?) I missed the last governing body meeting. Consequently, I only skimmed through the paperwork I received in advance of the meeting and am now going back through it in more detail.
I am guessing that all schools are in a similar situation at this time of year - updating, writing and rewriting policies - and I wonder if other people feel that it is becoming excessive?
I can see the sense in many policies - literacy, special needs etc - but one or two which I have been looking at just seem a step to far. In particular, we have a 'promotion policy', which I assumed was about promoting staff to new roles. Not so. It is a policy on how the school promotes itself. It has been written by our vice chair, who (apart from being highly committed to the school) is a mum of two and works almost full time. I just can't but help feel that her time could have been better spent elsewhere, rather than writing a long and thorough document on how we use our website/press contacts etc.
I don't know why I am particularly surprised - I remember how much seemingly unnecessary documentation I produced when I was teaching. I certainly would have preferred spending the time on planning lessons and creating resources. Having not worked in the system for nearly seven years now, I don't know if it is the case but, from what I see as a governor and parent, the amount of paperwork teachers are required to produce does not seem to have decreased at all.
I wonder how those that are working in the system feel about this?
I’ve been looking at the May copy of Governors magazine. Yes, I know it’s July, but I’ve been busy, OK?! The front page brings me good news – there are plans afoot to make governing bodies smaller and more effective. The idea being that the people that are taken on are more skilled, better trained and are made more accountable. I think this would be fantastic. Take our school, for example; I don’t know exactly how many of us governors there are, but it’s enough to over-fill the staffroom at a meeting. Most people turn up, which I guess is a good start, but the vast majority of these see the meetings as their only responsibility. It is evident that, if they have read all the material sent out in advance, they are not prepared to ask questions (mind you, I guess Libby Bigmouth here does that for them!) and when it comes to a voting most just vote in favour of whatever the Head wants anyway.
A key example of the general lack of understanding of how a school works came at our last meeting, at which the school’s head of finance was talking about next year’s intake. It went along the lines of; “Well, we have a full intake next year, not a single empty space. I mean, it’s absolutely ridiculous – even Year One is full now with people who want places here. It’s just crazy – there’s only one space in Year Two now….”
I sat quietly for a while – that is a feat in itself for me, let me tell you – thinking; “In a minute, someone will say how great it is that the school is doing so well and that we get paid on account of the number of children there are in the school.” But no-one did. Eventually, I could hold it back no longer and I said as much, to which everyone else took a huge sigh of relief and agreed with me.
What is it about being so afraid to upset anyone that people won’t speak up?
Anyway, I think that in our governing body, there are a few people who want to improve the school further and who have fantastic drive, and there is a larger number who mean well but don’t truly know what the job is about. In truth, I don’t either (otherwise I wouldn’t spend the whole time panicking about whether I should do/say something and then worrying about who I may have upset.
So, (possibly for the first time) I fear that I agree with Mr Balls. Let’s make governing bodies smaller, let’s recruit people who are committed and who are going to really make a difference, and let’s give them the training they need so that they can do this.
I can’t agree with the Fielder more that Sencos cannot be held responsible for poor results in maths and English GCSEs, but I guess our esteemed (?) government had to make some response to the Conservative Party’s observation about poor exam results.
The Fielder evidently feels affronted that Sencos are not automatically members of the SLT. My understanding is that schools and governing bodies are required to make Sencos members of the SLT where possible – currently, I believe, Sencos can be teaching assistants and the changes would mean that this will not be allowed.
As far as governors monitoring the Senco role is concerned – do schools not currently have a governor who is linked to SEN? Our certainly does. I think that it is important that governors understand what goes on and how the needs of this group of children are met.
Where I fear that the proposal goes too far is in the following: governors are expected to support, advise on, participate in and monitor the effectiveness of their school's SEN provision - and that includes overseeing pupils' records, securing services from outside agencies and liaising with parents.
Apart from the staff representatives, I am one of only two governors with teaching experience on our governing body. I taught in a school with a large number of children with SEN and I am also lucky enough not to have a full time job (apart from the kids). But I am far from an expert in the field and wouldn’t like to get involved in telling our extremely competent Senco how to do her job.
Considering that it is hard enough to get some of our governors to attend meetings and make visits to the school, I can’t see anyone going through the enough training to gain the level of experience needed.