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Tips on being a great parent governer

(27 Posts)
catpaws Sun 14-Nov-10 11:08:29

After a couple years of thinking about it, I have finally become a school governer at my DD's junior school . I now feel a tremendous responsibility to the parents and school, and am keen to do a good job. I can see from the various threads on the subject that this role can be extremely valuable and rewarding but is not without its challenges!! Any tips from other parent governers on how to create a good impression with the parents and school? What kinds of things are worth doing in the first few months, and which ones are less so - eg I can see it could be possible to agree to take on too much? Many thanks!

betelguese Sun 14-Nov-10 12:11:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

IndigoBell Sun 14-Nov-10 12:19:41

Go to the training that is offered.

There is not an awful lot a governor can do - so don't be disappointed after you've been on the training and realised what it actually entails

Listen to the parents. If the parents are complaining, it is unlikely to be something you can do anything about, so (after listening) tell them what they should do (raise it with teacher, head teacher - then if it is still not resolved make a formal complaing to the governors)

When you are discussing policy docs google to find similair docs from other schools to see if you can get ideas about what should be in there.

For example, it didn't occur to me that our homework policy should have said 'and homework will be marked and returned' until I moved school and realised that the prev school should have been doing that all along...

betelguese Sun 14-Nov-10 12:44:01

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

catpaws Sun 14-Nov-10 13:09:51

Thanks for your responses - really helpful. Sounds like I should do a bit of homework myself before going along to the first meeting!

admission Sun 14-Nov-10 21:12:31

You need to understand the role of the governing body. The basic task of the governing body is to set and monitor the strategic direction of the school. The head teacher is responsible for the day to day management of the school and for achieving the strategic tasks set by the governing body.
A parent governor is not a governor who represents parents, they are a representative parent and as such they should not be taking up every moan or objection that parents come to you with. There is a process for any complaints and that is via the headteacher.
I would strongly suggest that you sit down and talk with the head teacher and the chair of governors before you say or do anything as a governor. You should also attend as soon as possible the introductory training for school governors run by the Local Authority.

betelguese Sun 14-Nov-10 22:15:22

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DanFmDorking Mon 15-Nov-10 15:56:11

"What kinds of things are worth doing in the first few months,..."

a) Read the latest OFSTED report
b) Read the School Development Plan.
c) You should think of the Governor meetings as meetings you MUST attend and arrange your social life around them.
d) Put all the Governors meetings in your diary (I forgot once!).
e) Find out about Governor training in your area and put yourself down to attend.
f) Meet and get to know the Headteacher and Chair of Governors.

Remember the Governors deal with Budgets, Policies, Targets and things which are 'a step away' from the 'day to day' running of the school.
Any question like 'My child doesn't ... isn't ... can't ...' is not for a Governors meeting.

I have found the ‘Governor Line’ 0800 722 181 particularly useful.

Best Wishes

catpaws Mon 15-Nov-10 18:11:40

Thanks for your advice. Lots of practical advice here that I will definitely follow. I have been told I will get some training so I intend to read all the docs you've mentioned beforehand as I am sure they will raise all kinds of questions. I've already read a couple of them and can see it will take a while to decode the education language! Interesting to note that I am there as a representative of parents rather than representing them - I hadn't quite realised that distinction and it sounds more manageable when in the playground! I have been through the exclusions documentation before (long story) and can see how careful you need to be. However, I hope not to have to get involved with any of those until I've been a governor for a bit longer. Sounds like best policy is to sit in silence for the first meeting and listen carefully, and largely ask questions at future meetings.

DanFmDorking Mon 15-Nov-10 23:19:27

Hmmmmmmm – I’m going to say:- ‘By all means listen but make sure you ask a question at the first meeting (or even two questions!). Let them know that you are going to be a ‘Great Governor’.

'... to decode the education language'
Here you are:-

Education Abbreviations & Acronyms

Education is probably guiltier of using acronyms and abbreviations than most other professions. Good Practice for all documentation in schools should mean that they are always explained, but occasionally people forget for good reasons, usually pressure of work and 101 deadlines to meet. The following list is therefore aimed to help you pick your way through the jungle of jargon that you will doubtless meet. Please always ask if anyone uses an abbreviation or acronym in a meeting and you don’t know what it means.

A2 - Examinable qualifications taken in the second year of the sixth form
ALIS - 'A' Level Information System
ALS - Additional Literacy Support
AMG - Annual Maintenance Grant
AS - Examinable qualifications taken in the first year of the sixth form
ASWO - Assistant Student Welfare Officer
AT1 - Attainment Target 1 (National Curriculum)
AVCE - Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education (new Vocational A Level)
AWPU - Age weighted pupil unit
BSP - Behaviour Support Plan
CATS - Cogitative Ability Tests
CM - Curriculum Management
CDP - College Development Plan
CMC - Curriculum & Management Consultancy (Surrey)
CoP - Code of Practice for Special Educational Needs
CPD - Continuing Professional Development
DDP - Department Development Plan
DfEE - Department for Education and Employment (replaced by DfES)
DfES - Department for Education and Skills
DH - Deputy Head
DT - Design Technology
EAL - English as an Additional Language
EBD - Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties
EBP - Education Business Partnership
ECS - Education Children's Service
EDP - Educational Development Plan (usually LEA)
EMAG - Ethnic Minorities Achievement Grant
EMSE - Education Management South East (Regional Consortia for Leadership & Management
EPS - Educational Psychology Service
ESL - English as a Second Language
ESW - Educational Social Worker
EWO - Education Welfare Officer
EWS - Education Welfare Service
EYDP - Early Years Development Plan
FE - Further Education (Post 16)
F&GP - Finance and General Purposes
FGB - Full Governing Body
GB - Governing Body
GCSE - General Certificate of Secondary Education (usually taken at age 16)
GCE - General Certificate of Education (A Level)
GM - Grant Maintained
GNVQ - General National Vocational Qualification
HHTBMS - Home and Hospital Tuition and Behaviour Management Service
HMI - Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Schools
HOD - Head of Department
HOF - Head of Faculty

HOY - Head of Year
HR - Human Resources
IBP - Individual Behaviour Plan
ICT - Information, Communication, Technology
IELS - Intercultural and English Language Service
IEP - Individual Education Plan
IiP - Investors in People
INSET - In Service Educational Training
ISP - Improving Student Performance (Group)
KS - Key Skills
KS1 - Key Stage 1 - primary years 1 to 3, ages 5 to 7
KS2 - Key Stage 2 - primary years 4 to 6, ages 8 to 11
KS3 - Key Stage 3 - secondary years 7 to 9, ages 12 to 14
KS4 - Key Stage 4 - secondary years 10 to 11, ages 15 to 16
KS5 - Key Stage 5 - tertiary years 12 and 13, ages 17 to 18
LD - Learning Difficulties
LEA - Local Education Authority
LLSS - Learning and Language Support Services
LMS - Local Management of Schools
LPSH - Leadership Programme for Serving Heads
LQSH - Leadership Qualification for Serving Heads
LSA - Learning Support Assistant
LSC - Learning and Skills Council
LSS - Learning Support Services
MLD - Moderate Learning Difficulty
NAHT - National association of Headteachers
NASUWT - National Association Schoolmasters and Union of Women Teachers
NC - National Curriculum
NDS - New Deal for Schools
NGfL - National Grid for Learning
NLS - National Literacy Scheme
NOF - New Opportunities Funding
NPQH - National Professional Qualification for Headship
NQT - Newly Qualified Teacher
NRA - National Record of Achievement
NUT - National Union of Teachers
OFSTED - Office for Standards in Education
PACE - Personal and careers Education
PAN - Published Admission Number
PANDA - Performance AND Assessment (report from OFSTED)
PDP - Personal Development Plan / Professional Development Portfolio
PGCE - Post Graduate Certificate in Education
PMS - Performance Management Scheme
PTFA - Parent Teachers and Friends Association
PTR - Pupil / Teacher Ratio
PRU - Pupil Referral Unit
PSE - Personal and Social Education
PSHE - Personal, social and health education
PSP - Pastoral Support Plan
QCA - Qualifications and Curriculum Authority
RASSG - Raising Achievement in Surrey Schools Group
SACRE - Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education/Surrey Agreed Curriculum for Religious Education
SAS - Standard Age Score
SATS - Standard Attainment Tests
SCAA - School Curriculum and Assessment Authority
SCC - Surrey County Council
SD - Staff Development
SDP - School Development Plan
SEGFL - South East Grid for Learning
SEN - Special Education Needs
SENCO - Special Education Needs Co-ordinator
SENREP - Special Educational Needs Departmental Representative
SENSE - National Deaf / Blind Association
SER - Self Evaluation and Review
SI - Statutory Instrument
SID - Special Interest Department
SIMS - School Information Management System
SLD - Severe Learning Difficulty
SLW - Student Link Worker
SMSA - School meals (midday) supervisory assistant
SMT - Senior Management Team
SOSS - Senior Officer - Safety and Support
SOW - Scheme of Work
SPLD - Specific Learning Difficulties
SSA - Special Support Assistant
ST - Senior Teacher
STRB - School Teachers Review Body
SWO - Student Welfare Officer
TC - Technology College
TCDG - Technology College Development Group
TED - Teacher Education Day
TTA - Teacher Training Agency
VCE - Vocational Certificate in Education
YELLIS - Year 11 Information System

catpaws Tue 16-Nov-10 18:09:56

Wow! That's some list of acronyms. I could perhaps play 'jargon bingo' at the first meeting and see how many I spot. Whilst I say I'll try to be quiet at the first meeting, I'm not known for keeping quiet so I probably will ask a couple of questions. I went onto the LEA website last night and pulled off loads of info for governers and they have what looks like a very extensive training programme so I can see it's going to be a steep learning curve.

FairyFay Tue 16-Nov-10 18:13:58

I've just put my name down to be considered a sa parent governor as well - I hope that I am made one, but it does all look a bit daunting!

Niecie Tue 16-Nov-10 18:44:09

The acronym list is short of the 2 most important documents you need to see which are the SIP and the SEF, that is the School Improvement Plan, which is pretty self explanatory, and the Self Evaluation Form where the school evaluates itself. It is probably the first document Ofsted looks at when they visit.

There are lots of acroynms missing from the list that might be more relevant to the meetings you will go to as a junior school gov. Other examples taken from our meetings in the last week might be

FFT data - Fisher Family Trust (provide analysis of stats and provide targets based on the demographics of your school)
RRR school - Right Respect Responsibility school,
PPRM - pupil progress review meeting
APP - Achieving pupil progress approach.

It is worth having a quick look at what all these mean. There are others of course.

My MIL was a governor once and told me when I started as a governor not to get involved in committees for at least a year. Actually, I disagree with this. You need to get on a committee or two to really find out what is going on in the school. If there are decisions to be made they are often discussed in committee which is the interesting bit and just ratified in the FGB (Full Governing Body) meeting.

Definitely go on all the training going and volunteer for as much as you have time for to raise the profile of the governors within the school and to help out. Even the teachers can be a bit in the dark about what the governors do sometimes so if you can go into school and do a visit or help out with something then it is good PR for the governors and let the teachers know that the governors are in touch with the day to day happenings in the school.

I also agree with admission - parent governors are representitive of the parents not for the parents. It is not up to you as parent to make a good impression for the parents or to canvas opinion. Most don't know or care what the governors do. In fact, it was impressed upon us that if a parent ever approaches us as a governor we are to refer them to the HT in the first instance or the Chair of the Governors if the problem is with the head. We don't handle it ourselves.

It is all amazingly formal and quite well regulated by statute. I was surprised when I started. However, it can be fun too and it certainly worth doing. Good luck.

DanFmDorking Tue 16-Nov-10 19:27:17

Crikey Niecie, thanks for those, I’ve added them to my list.
FFT data applies to senior schools as well.

I am unfamiliar with these three though:-
RRR school - Right Respect Responsibility school,
PPRM - pupil progress review meeting
APP - Achieving pupil progress approach.

Are they Hampshire specific?

FairyFay it’s not daunting really, it’s very rewarding, Good Luck.

Sadb Tue 16-Nov-10 19:34:03

Do not discuss pupils with your mates in the playground!

Niecie Tue 16-Nov-10 20:24:36

I don't think they are Hampshire specific (though it wouldn't be unheard of for me to be wrong!). I think they are schemes that a lot of schools sign up to to get some sort of certification. I thought they were common but maybe not.

There is also Every Child Matters and the UN thing, the full acronym for which escapes me. Healthy schools as well. All schemes to join to show you are performing and meeting targets for things that might not otherwise be obvious to Ofsted.

Sadb - you are absolutely right but at our school they don't tend to name names anyway. Some things remain confidential even to the govs.

gramercy Tue 16-Nov-10 21:09:51

Think of it like being a non-executive board member. They do not run the company; they are there to take an overview and see that it delivers. You wouldn't get a non-exec director turning up at a board meeting and reporting that the Post Room wasn't happy and that there'd been complaints about the canteen.

The Head of Governor Services in my county told me that he frequently has to sort out governing bodies and finds that often three quarters of the meeting is devoted to "parking outside the school" and "design of the new sweatshirt" - matters which may interest governors, particularly parent governors, but are not what they are supposed to be discussing.

By the way, SIPs and SEFs are going to be ditched.

And all those acronyms, don't worry. You eventually cotton on and then are bandying them about with the best of them.

Niecie Tue 16-Nov-10 21:38:38

Can't see SIPs being ditched. How is a school supposed to monitor it's progress is it doesn't have targets. I suspect if that is true it will just be 'rebadged'. The SEF is time consuming but I thought they were also to be left to the school to do for themselves so that will continue to exist just not in such a well documented form.

singersgirl Wed 17-Nov-10 11:47:09

I would query why governors are not supposed to be discussing parking outside the school and the new sweatshirt design. Clearly these shouldn't take up a disproportionate time in a meeting, but parking outside the school has an implication for health and safety/safeguarding/travel plans, and the school sweatshirt is an important part of the school's presentation to all its audiences. You would expect the governing body to sign off changes to uniform.

singersgirl Wed 17-Nov-10 11:48:05

By the way, we're an Outstanding Governing Body of an Outstanding school, and we discuss everything that has an impact on the children's environment and learning.

gramercy Wed 17-Nov-10 20:10:12

I'm sure you have an Outstanding sweatshirt to prove it.

IndigoBell Wed 17-Nov-10 21:06:53

SADB - As a governor you would never find out anything about individual children. Unless a formal complaint had been made about something by their parents.

singersgirl Thu 18-Nov-10 17:00:43

I do. I have a whole wardrobe of them and so do the children. With matching underwear too.

Didn't mean to sound whatever it was I clearly sounded. I was just saying that it seemed odd that we would apparently be one of the governing bodies that needed 'sorting out' according to your county's Head of Governor services, whereas apparently we're considered quite good.

gramercy Fri 19-Nov-10 12:26:48


I think what he meant was that too many governing bodies are composed of people who shy away from the scarier aspects, such as finance and analysing data, and prefer to spend an hour and a half discussing the proverbial sweatshirt.

singersgirl Fri 19-Nov-10 13:34:05

I do know what you mean, and it's easy sometimes for far too long to be spent on something quite trivial, particularly if it's somebody's bugbear or passion.

[Goes off to launder impeccable sweatshirt]

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