Saturday, 2 March 2013

Not JUST a volunteer

Many of England's largest band of volunteers have been enraged by the apparently damning comments of SMW but after the knee jerk responses,anger and effrontery isn't it time for governors and GB to reflect on their role and how they could indeed do better.

The first hurdle to overcome is the popular misconception that the term volunteer is synonymous with amateur; an unskilled dabbler. Unfortunately some would consider this exactly describes the average governor and governors themselves identify training deficits as a significant barrier to effective governance. Governors need to reflect  on and appraise their performance on a regular basis, identifying their needs and being pro-active in seeking solutions to enable them to act professionally and be viewed as such.

I know many school governors who are entirely professional in their conduct of governance and this is what we need; more governors being professional, rather than necessarily more "professional" governors. In my experience those venerated (by some) skill rich "professionals" are often so time-starved that they are unable to commit to the softer side of governance, coming into school, really getting to know and developing a deep understanding of their community to inform their duty.

Governors need to challenge themselves individually and corporately, rejecting mediocrity, in pursuit of being the best they can be.  Being passionate, supportive and hard working are highly commendable starting points but governors must accept that once they take up the role they occupy a position of public office and, in the case of Academy governors the potentially uncharted territory of Company Directors and Charitable Trustees with their additional responsibilities. Most governors are familiar with the seven principles of public life and I would recommend The Good Governance Standard for Public Services from 2004 which builds on them, as a source of reference in understanding and developing their role.

I have never been so frustrated as by the excuse from both governors and school leaders that I couldn't expect governors to know x or do y because they are "just volunteers". As long as this attitude perpetuates governance is in danger of stagnation and at risk of failing the schools and children it serves. Only by taking  an informed professional stance can governors achieve the respect of and parity with the school leadership they have a duty to challenge and support.

How can you hold the school leadership to account if you haven't yourself held the mirror to your own face and looked deeply?

1 comment:

  1. As a clerk, I'm conscious I am paid and governors are not. Sometimes it's difficult to know what level of expectation to have of governors. I would like to be able to expect them to be professional (of course some are!).