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What do parents and teachers really think of school governors?

(104 Posts)
DiggerMum Wed 08-Jun-16 19:35:49

I am a primary school governor and have a strong background in education and children's services. I feel I have some relevant support and experience to offer my school and put in a lot of hours and effort, as do lots of the other governors I know. I sometimes feel a sense of ambivalence/ defensiveness from some (not all!) teachers and similarly with some parents (again certainly not all!) - some parents for example seem to talk to me thinking I can sort an issue with the school for them (not my role!) or think I do it to advance my own child. I was in a conversation with a teacher recently (not from my school) in which she said that governors were just for decoration, didn't contribute anything and really just a waste of space - according to her, all teachers think this, and most parents, but just go along with it as the government says it is what we have to do. In my opinion Governors are very useful and are currently put under increasing pressure in terms of management and leadership in schools. I suppose I am just therefore pondering what parents and teachers really think of them/ people like me and is it worth doing what I do?

Winterbiscuit Wed 08-Jun-16 19:54:39

I'd like to hear more about what the governors do, for example in a newsletter every so often to see what they've been working on and the decisions made. Governor profiles, an explanation of what the governors do, and contact details on the school website might be helpful too. I think it's not unusual for a lot of people to not even know who the governors are. I have to say I thought one of the roles of governors was to deal with complaints if a parent hasn't been able to resolve something with the class teacher or head.

oaadc Wed 08-Jun-16 23:41:55

I'm a former teacher. There was always a feeling that the governors had quite a bit of 'power' but didn't get involved in the day to day running of the school. We had to answer to them and ask permission from them for things without ever having met some of them. They'd go on 'learning walks' with the head to give feedback (criticise) our classrooms and displays etc.

We used to feel like we were being checked up on if a governor suddenly decided to pop in.

On the other hand, I've worked in a school where each class had their own link governor who would come in regularly to help, developed a brilliant working relationship with us and our class and would send little letters and things. Mine was absolutely lovely and we're still friends now.

CodyKing Wed 08-Jun-16 23:48:24

No idea on their role other than signing off accounts -

Our complaints procedure states that all incidents of bullying should be reported to the governors but I know they aren't -

Nectarines Wed 08-Jun-16 23:54:56

Where I teach, they do nothing other than attend meetings. They don't know the names of the staff. They choose not to attend events. The parent governors are in it for the gossip. They are useless. And yet, ultimately, many important decisions are in their hands.

I think it should be compulsory to spend a set amount of time in school in order to remain on the governing body.

hownottofuckup Wed 08-Jun-16 23:55:05

I have no idea what it is that they do.

OhTheRoses Wed 08-Jun-16 23:56:11

As a parent I think they are either local professional committee sitters, parent out to maximise advantages/exceptions for their own children or local councillors/wannabee politicians doing it for their cv.

I don't understand why they so rarely challenge poor heads and practices? At dd's formerly brilliant comp they let a shocking head destroy the school and made excuses.

AlmaMartyr Wed 08-Jun-16 23:57:37

Governors here a bit of a grim clique who gossip in the playground about teachers (private lives and professional) and children. Am sure they do some useful things too but I wouldn't go near ours with a bargepole.

CodyKing Thu 09-Jun-16 00:01:57

Sorry they are role out at prize giving

fatowl Thu 09-Jun-16 00:10:23

Disclaimer - I am a Governor, but in a private school not in the UK, so my experience may not be strictly the same.

Most people at my school wouldn't know who the governors were.
We don't get involved with the running of the school- that is not our role.

We set the budget and the school fees. Most parents will say the governors job is to put the fees up each year.
We also work on the strategic plans for the school- we are currently working on the budget and plans for renovation work (we are a large school that has grown adhoc from a small original building. We deal with the odd complaint (really not many) and set KPIs for the Headteacher.
The nearest I get to being involved with day to day running is that I sit on a subcommittee for teaching quality working with the head on teacher evalution, support and PD (like I say we are not in the UK, so we don't have OFSTED). This does not mean I sit in classrooms and observe though - that's his job. I could tell you the number of Outstanding v Good v Satisfactory teachers we have this year as opposed to last year, how they are evaluated and how many have improved, but I couldn't tell you which category Miss X in Y4 falls into (we have a staff of 180 over two campuses)
It's an interesting job, I do enjoy it.

katemiddletonsnudeheels Thu 09-Jun-16 00:10:58

My concerns about governors has always been that a huge amount of trust and responsibility is placed in people who, for the most part, are untrained in that role.

CastielsClevererBetterSister Thu 09-Jun-16 00:12:38

I'm parent governor. As far as I can tell I'm there for decoration.

fatowl Thu 09-Jun-16 00:15:50

X-post with the last few posts.
I definite;y don't gossip, we have a strict code of conduct, and governors with personal agendas are, quite frankly, a PITA (we have two- one from a local church who is determined to get our secular school back into the Christian fold, and one who is only a governor so she can put it on her CV - she is useless - when she turns up which is hardly ever)

Medusacascade Thu 09-Jun-16 08:07:47

I quit the school governing body I was on because not one of them was interested in challenging the awful head teacher. There were so many issues not being addressed but that headteacher could have charmed his way out of a murder scene.

Shakirasma Thu 09-Jun-16 08:27:59

I'm a parent governor and our governing body work extremely hard.

We are responsible for strategic planning, budgets, school improvement and we hold the head and his team to account.

Leaning walks are not about criticising teachers and their classrooms, they are about making sure the head is doing their job of ensuring the whole school is singing from the same hymn sheet as agreed by the governors. It is not our job to get involved with the day to day running of the school, that is the heads responsibility and it's our job to check and hold them accountable.

We are very well trained, I started with no experience but was sent on absolutely loads of training courses, both general and specialist ones.

Being a parent governor carries absolutely no weight in terms of being advantageous to our children, we have no influence as individuals only as a body. We are not in a position to make demands of our child's teacher and any head who bows to a parent governor seeking preferential treatment for their child is a rubbish head.

Shakirasma Thu 09-Jun-16 08:28:49

We are also heavily involved in staff recruitment.

Itsmine Thu 09-Jun-16 08:34:07

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Bolograph Thu 09-Jun-16 08:34:33

At dd's formerly brilliant comp they let a shocking head destroy the school and made excuses.

B--- School in the city of B----, on the B---- Road, by any chance?

acasualobserver Thu 09-Jun-16 08:50:32

Retired now but worked in many schools over a period of 40 years. I think in most places the governors were regarded by the staff as the HT's tame stooges who provided little in the way of oversight or control. Mind you, given the advice trotted out here daily, at least schools have an panel where MNers can register every trivial complaint they have about their children's teachers!

NicknameUsed Thu 09-Jun-16 08:51:51

I used to be a parent governor. My specific role was to ensure that the school complied with health and safety issues. In a large secondary school that was a time consuming task. I used to visit every term to check that H & S actions had been completed and to check if there were any more issues that needed addressing.

I could have written Shakirasma's post because she describes how our GB worked. I did loads of training courses and went to a few conferences.

Our governing body wasn't afraid to challenge the HT, especially when the GCSE results weren't as good as they might have been. We also had an "interesting" meeting when the subject of bullying came up as a couple of parent governors had children at the school who had been bullied.

Governors aren't allowed to bring a personal agenda to meetings, but this was relevant and brought the message home.

Keithyoustink Thu 09-Jun-16 08:59:36

Governors potentially have a hugely important role. I was Chair of Governors at a school where there was a child protection issue involving the Head. It was reported to me and I was the point of call during the investigation and subsequent disciplinary action.

However, I do think many people become governors without actually understanding the role and the idea of corporate responsibility. In addition, governing body's effectiveness is only as good as it members. You need people who can understand a balance sheet, data and new legislation etc otherwise there is the potential for them to just rely on the Head's version which may be skewed.

Brokenbiscuit Thu 09-Jun-16 09:08:33

governing body's effectiveness is only as good as it members.

^ This.

There are good governing bodies and bad governing bodies. They are likely to be perceived differently.

Musicinthe00ssucks Thu 09-Jun-16 09:14:31

I'm a clerk for a University's governing body.

The Governors of the University are it's trustees. First and foremost over any other role they hold. We have independent governors, co-opted governors, staff governors and student governors. They have to leave their 'other hats' at the door and realise that they are there in the interests of the University only - not their own.

We ask them to fill out an annual declaration of interests and step out of any discussion they may conflict with. In your case OP this would mean anything directly related to your own child. Maybe you could say this to the other parents to make them understand that you have no influence.

Governors are also there to ensure financial statements are signed off, audit rules are adhered to and generally everything is run with parity.

Yourface Thu 09-Jun-16 09:20:53

Really interesting question and answers. I think it is shocking how much power a headteacher has and how if he/she configures his governors just right then that power seems almost unbridled. It seems no coincidence that our ht's chair of governors is an obvious stooge. My son was subject to a child protection incident and the ht and someone else were directly responsible for what happened to him. Directly responsible! The other person was sacked (not an employee if the school),and yet fuck all happened to the ht. The chair of governors minimised and more or less hid the incident from the other governors. It was only when I emailed all of them directly were they truly aware of what happened. The end result was still that very little was done to the twat, even though I pushed the matter as far as I could. Yet the other guy was sacked?!! There is something very wrong about how schools are governed or at least at the very top.
Sorry if this is a little off track from the op!

freemanbatch Thu 09-Jun-16 09:22:50

I'm a governor at my child's school, I've done lots of training courses as well as bringing a teaching and accountancy background to the role. I attend all meetings and training events and I am known as the one who will challenge the head teacher if it needs doing

Parents come to me with issues in the yard and I sign post them the right way. I then mention at the meeting, in the any other business section, that parents have raised x, y or z and that I advised that they speak to whoever I'd sign posted them to which means it's in the minutes that I've been approached about things that aren't governor issues and the governing body then requests that the head teacher send a letter home to the relevant year or the whole school to explain the process should parents have an issue.

This is done in order to discourage people approaching me in the yard with grievances which can be an issue for parent governors.

The effect for me and my kids is that the school rarely take my complaints seriously preferring to handle things in a 'friendly way' which means my kids are treated less well than others and on the one occasion I made a formal complaint to the chair of governor about something that was planned for my youngest son class I was completely ignored until the topic was over.

I know every staff member by name and I am invited to events and trips by different teachers so I assume that they don't mind having me around but senior management do find my challenge hard to take some times especially when they don't know the answers and they should!

It's not glamorous being a governor but I think that it's important that parents are represented and that there is some a function to keep a check on a head teacher because the kids only get one chance at education and we have to make it the best chance we can.

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