Is it time to rethink school governors? There is a touch of the Victorian Board School Trustees about what we have – the great and good of a community deigning to dictate to under-educated and socially inferior teachers how they must improve.
Into that quaint cultural context has then been chucked all the responsibilities that governments have wanted to get off their own backs.
The demands on a state school governor are unrealistic.
It is no wonder the citizens of this country are not exactly lining up to take on the unpaid role.
The idea that governors should be holding headteachers to account has been dreamed up by people who have no idea of the daily life of a head.
Heads are held to account for their smallest and largest move every minute of their day. If it is not their own teachers, it is parents en masse or individually knocking at their door and if there is a moment when the head might be drawing breath, the children are demanding improvements or the media is berating them.
The last thing likely to benefit children’s education is yet more (and unlikely to be any different) challenges imposed by governors.
It would be worth actually asking state school heads if the inordinate amount of time that now has to be spent preparing for governors meetings and sitting in them in order to ensure governors are in a position to fulfil their many statutory duties, has the positive outcomes for the children that such a commitment surely demands.
That is not to say that there is no role for members of the wider community to play in our schools.
Governors should be a window on the world that the time-pressed headteacher rarely has time to push open.
Governing bodies are advised to do ‘skills audits’ in order to ensure a range of talents.
Rather than just noting these, it would be helpful for schools if governors were to give a regular report to the head on developments in their area of expertise that could have implications for a school.
A head and their team could then consider these new ideas in the light of the realities of the school.
Parent governors and governors who are there as community leaders need to have more to offer.
Schools are in the primary business of broadening children’s outlook.
Education is there to introduce children to ideas and ways of thinking that their immediate family and community can’t do.
That is why the link to social mobility and higher education is seen as so vital.
Governors who see their role as anchoring children in the tiny pool of a local community are failing to understand what schools are there to do.
Lots of other countries manage without governors. If we want to continue this historic custom, it needs a modern re-think.
* Sarah Evans is a former principal at King Edward VI High School for Girls