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Paid Governors

(120 Posts)
NoComet Wed 27-Feb-13 14:59:13

Ofsted chief Sir Michael Wilshaw wants paid governors.

I am just the sort of non professional, parent governor he hates.
I put in many hours of my time for free, attending meetings, reading documents, understanding data. (Yes, I do understand the data) and attending trainings.

I have two DCs at the school and I care passionately about their education. I care that they make more than three levels of progress and get 5 A-C GCSEs.

I care that the school employs good staff and balances the books so it can continue to provide them.

But I also care about the buses, the lunches, the extracurricular activities, the concerts and the plays.

I care about the state of the buildings, the toilets and the decrepit boiler.

Some of these things have a direct financial implications and all of these things impact on pupils, and often, staff moral.

If you are cold, missed lunch because the queue was too long or you are getting bullied on the bus you are not going to concentrate in lessons.

If you find making friends difficult then choir or painting scenery for the play can make lunch time way more bearable.

If home life is difficult it may be far easier to talk to a teacher you've got to know well on a school trip, than your head of house.

Yes, the bottom line is achieving qualifications, but to do that you need pupils who feel safe and valued.

The most Outstanding teacher in the world can't deliver an Outstanding lesson to a pupil who is being bullied and refuses to come to school.

BuxtonBlueCat Sat 02-Mar-13 18:07:01

Erm, not sure I should admit this, but after five years I've only ever completed stage one of the introductory training sessions for governors - so one training session at the LA! And one held by the school on safeguarding - which is mandatory. This is due to the sessions being awkward to access for people with no transport. To get more people on the training sessions it would be good if they were organised so that all governors had to attend so many each year. That way there would probably be somebody to travel with.

I've always found it weird that as a parent governor with no qualifications or much experience in education, that I wasn't make to take part in more training to start with (although since becoming a governor I've trained to be a teacher).

Hopefully, online training will take off, especially since one of the issues we have now is that the LEA has all but collapsed thanks to government funding cuts.

BigBoobiedBertha Sat 02-Mar-13 17:50:33

Yes, we are pretty hot on training here too. We also the choice of several different venues and times of day for the most popular and/or compulsory courses. The LA is split into 3 areas so they tend to run the same course in each area. If you can't go to your own you can travel to another or just wait a term and it will come round again.

We are encouraged to do as much training as possible, have full GB training sessions and access to on-line training too. We want our money's worth as we get the full training package so we can go on whatever we want without having to ask if it is OK and arrange payment and it is apparently cheaper than paying for each course individually.

I agree that there seems to be a big difference in the way LA deal with their governors. I was reading something yesterday about becoming a clerk and some LA send their clerks on BTEC courses to get accredited. Some just do their own training which isn't so good. I am sure that the differences are apparent right across the GB. Aren't LA's inspected, maybe even by Ofsted? I am pretty sure they are and that our LA was rated as good. You can see why there is a disparity if there aren't national standards and requirements.

Elibean Sat 02-Mar-13 11:27:47

I thought the National Training was mandatory, too?

All our Govs have done it, and most of our Govs (bar one of the LA ones who rarely shows up these days) do regular trainings of all sorts, and are up to date on all the recommended ones. Admittedly, our Borough provides great training, but even so - I am responsible for Gov training, and I nag grin

annh Sat 02-Mar-13 10:00:24

Am quite shocked at the varied training provision which seems to exist between different LAs. At our school, the two initial Governor training courses and a course on Finance in schools are mandatory, I assumed that was the case for all Governing Bodies but maybe it is just our school who asks for that? We are also encouraged to go on whatever training courses we can possibly manage, attend Hot Topics sessions etc. There is an expectation that you will do at least some training each year.

Our LA also offers a wide range of courses and each course is offered in a couple of locations and at different times. A course will typically be offered in an evening session from 7 p.m. and daytime from 10a.m. There are usually 3/4 locations, at least one of which will be close to me. I can quite see that if ALL training is offered 4-6 p.m. it makes it very difficult both for people working and for parents at home with children to access it.

BuxtonBlueCat Sat 02-Mar-13 07:48:35

Re training: our governor training sessions are the same as the above poster, thus making it difficult for some governors ti access. Our LA are now offering online training which our school have subscribed to. It make training so much more convenient.

Wingdingdong Fri 01-Mar-13 23:09:35

"Most Governors have some sort of interest in the school or they probably wouldn't have even thought of being a Governor of that school."

I'm a LA governor of a primary. I didn't ask for any school in particular, though I did say I'd prefer one on my side of the borough. I've been a governor for a few years, I didn't have children, I wasn't brought up in this area and I had no connection with the school.

I volunteered. I volunteered because I felt I'd been lucky, I'd had plenty of opportunities, I needed to put something back into society and - being perfectly honest - I read a newspaper article on volunteering and the role of school governor seemed the best fit for my own abilities/qualifications. I'd like to think I volunteered for perfectly altruistic reasons, but I do believe in karma... And as it happens, I got allocated the school at the end of my road, and I now have a 3.7yo who'll (hopefully) be starting there in September, so I'm glad that I have always kept a close eye on the long-term interests of the school!

If it was a paid role, no, I wouldn't do it. I'd find something else to volunteer for.

Re training - if the LA didn't hold all of its training sessions between 4 and 6pm half an hour away from here, it might be rather easier for those of us with very young children (and amongst primary school governors, that's a majority) to actually attend sessions. I have a 1yo and a 3yo and no parents/PILs living nearby for on-tap babysitting. DH works in the City, I could possibly get babysitters during the day or later in the evening - but at tea/bath/bedtime? No way. And that's the upside of being a volunteer as opposed to paid - you can turn around and say that it's not convenient, what are they going to do to make it convenient? (When I became a governor, sessions were 2-4 and 7-9pm...)

BuxtonBlueCat Fri 01-Mar-13 22:17:53

Completely agree OP. I've been a parent governor for five years now. Not only is it my son's school, but it is my old primary and that of my brothers so I love the school and enjoy having the opportunity to give something back.

My son leaves in September so I'm desperately trying to find a way I can stay on, maybe as a community governor. Schools need governors who are passionate about the education and welfare of the pupils, not in it for their own gains!

Talkinpeace Fri 01-Mar-13 17:12:10

School Governors
Parish Councillors
Charity Trustees

all unpaid, unskilled volunteers : long may it continue.
The difference is that Parish Council Clerks are encouraged to complete professional qualifications
As are charity officers
so what is actually needed is better pay for Professional Clerks to Governors
then you still get the variety of parental and local input, but with better Governance

Kez100 Fri 01-Mar-13 17:08:36

Anyone knocking Governors should try being one. It's amazing when you actually see people in meetings, how you are likely tomight view them differently. Most Governors have some sort of interest in the school or they probably wouldn't have even thought of being a Governor of that school. Then making a direct assumption that is why they do it is completely unreasonable.

It is true some people do join for theirr own self-interest but, in my experience, they don't stay a Governor for very long when they realise the work involved and the lack of return (tangible or intangible).

noseynoonoo Fri 01-Mar-13 15:49:06

If being paid made the system of appointment more accountable, I'd be all for it. The governors at my school come from an ever-decreasing grouping, many of whom have been appointed by the Head. I see leadership from neither the Head nor his appointees.

I think Gove was spot on about the 'self-important' types. I can pretty much see the motivation of each appointee at our school - and it's not the advancement of the school.

Pendeen Fri 01-Mar-13 15:13:07

I worked for a short time for our county council as a short term contract architect, designing and managing extension and alteration projects and I met many governors, attended their meetings etc.

I have to say I was surprised at the naivety of some governors and the arrogance of others when it came to but always encouraged and impressed by the enthusiasm and dedication of most.

The worst kind were those who, having watched a couple of episodes of 'Grand Designs' or the like were absolutely convinced they were suddenly experts in all aspects of architecture and building! Quite wrong IMO when these people are in charge of hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money.

There were a few headteachers like that as well, ignoring essential guidance l because they knew best what was needed (and had done a bit od DIY)!

The academies program will only make this sort of thing far worse.

catinhat Fri 01-Mar-13 14:51:57

kez100 - your reaons for un-paid governors are good.

Our clerk is paid. That is important because they put in hours of time doing administation.

catinhat Fri 01-Mar-13 14:49:21

As a governor who has received over 5 e-mails this week in advance of three meetings next week, I would quite enjoyed being paid. We also struggle to get governors; our school is small, not posh and doesn't have lots of know-it all parents desperate to get involved. We need a financial chair and - though we have accountant parents - they are so busy with work and family that they can't commit. I manage to put the time in because I have my own business that gives me some flexibility.

However, I have an awful suspicion that paying governors might end up with schools being run by 'fat cats' as opposed to people based in the community.

I think it's a shame Michael Wilshaw criticises governors. Gove did it 6 months ago; he stated that many governors only did it because they were self-important types.

I do wonder whether governing bodies could be smaller or shared between schools. If they were smaller, meetings might be shorter even if more frequent.

DuchessOfAvon Fri 01-Mar-13 14:16:36

yy to Kez

Our budgets were so tight it was really hard to justify spending any cash on clerking services and training. I did manage to get some money ringfenced in my second year but when I looked into the services that we could buy from the LA, the quality was shocking for the cost. Its very hard to go out and procure clerking or HR or Finance support independently when you are a tiddly primary.

Our CoG didn't performance manage the Head but she did stitch up all access to her - and would overrule any discussion I did manage to have independantly with the Head. I don't blame the HEad to be honest - I think she was just trying to keep the CoG off her own back but it got to the stage where I could no longer trust the SLT in the school to view me objectively as a parent should any issues arise with my own kids. I had no choice but to step down.

Its a catch 22 for parent governors - they have a lot at stake compared to the others and once the Chinese walls are breached there is no way back.

It takes skill to challenge the school in a constructive and supportive fashion coupled with good content knowledge. It took me a good year to get my head round the finances and performance data. That's where Governors need support.

Wigeon Fri 01-Mar-13 14:10:19

Did you know many central government departments have non-executive directors - info on them here. They get £15k a year, although some waive their fee.

Wigeon Fri 01-Mar-13 14:02:18

Sparrowp - I would have thought that the role of non-exec is paid because your contribution results in better financial results for the company, and there is a correlation between how well you perform your role and the profits of the company / salaries of the staff / bonus of the Chief Exec. It would take a very odd person to do that for free.

In education and in the charity sector, your contribution as a governor / charity trustee results in non-financial results like better educational attainment, or whatever the charity's outcomes are. So there is an argument that people might want to do that altruistically and would not necessarily need to be motivated by financial reward.

I really think the question is not "should governors be paid" but "how do we ensure that governors perform as effectively as possible" and payment is only one possible answer to that. Many on this thread have suggested other ways of increasing the performance of governors (better training, more LA support, more focus on ensuring the Chair is excellent and can ensure the rest of the GB is effective etc).

Sparrowp Fri 01-Mar-13 13:59:32

Personally, here is my list of priorities:

Keeping a roof over our head
Keeping us warm and properly fed
Keeping us clothed and booted
Interesting educational activities,
sports participation
living in a clean, well-ordered home
saving up for our own, secure, home

If someone was to tell me I should prioritise the governing of the school over those things, I would think they were a do-gooding, lentil weaving, lovely but hopelessly naive unreasonable person.

However if the role contributed to all the priorities above, it would certainly be worth doing and putting a lot of work and effort and skills into, because I strongly value a good, well run school.

Sparrowp Fri 01-Mar-13 13:46:02

Comparing this discussion to the role in other spheres is very interesting.

The role of governors sounds similar to the role of a non-executive company director. However in the private sector, this is an important and paid role.

Why do we expect people to do it for free for schools? We all pay for education through our taxes, and if its not up to scratch we will be paying more in every way for the generations of people who do not reach their potential.

Is it because education and children are considered "female" areas, and so don't deserve decent reward for their skilled, important and sometimes difficult work?

Kez100 Fri 01-Mar-13 12:18:27

No. Governors should not be paid despite the millions of unpaid hours they put in (I'm a Vice Chair of a secondary). They should be given a pot of money every year however to recruit experienced clerking services, to pay for any training they want (without having to resort to the school budget) and for access to professional services -like HR or legal. Or, maybe not even a pot of money, but these things provided by the Government on a national basis separate from school budgets and free for Governors to access.

Unpaid Governorship can create rubber stamping Governing bodies, which is regrettable, but it also means that in the more robust bodies that the Governors are more truthful and honest because there is nothing to lose. They can resign to make a point if necessary without 'losing income'. Most people once in receipt of an income learn to rely on it and it can cause a independance issue if conflicts arise.

BreconBeBuggered Fri 01-Mar-13 11:27:05

It's difficult in some schools to get parent governors at all. I had my arm twisted to put myself forward as a governor and resisted it for some time because as it happened I did know what it entailed, and that it wasn't just showing up for a handful of meetings a year and never thinking about it in between. There have been a few drifters in and out of our GB who have tried it out and backed away pretty rapidly when they discover there's no room for passengers.

JugglingFromHereToThere Fri 01-Mar-13 11:00:41

Maybe they should make the training compulsory. I served as a parent governor for several years without having done training. I would have liked training but IIRC this was not made easy for me by the timing of it and lack of childcare available (It was a Nursery school and as you might expect I had a 4 year old DS and 6 year old DD at the time)
If anyone has not been able to do training maybe chair or experienced governor should spend half an hour or so with new governors to go over the basics - how to raise issues, what role of governor is, for starters !

PolkadotCircus Fri 01-Mar-13 10:51:08

The thing is the elections are a bit pants.The spiel printed re each candidate had buggar all to with education policies or running a school at our last one so the default option was to vote for who you know/like best.

Not a good reason for anybody to be given such an important role.

BigBoobiedBertha Fri 01-Mar-13 10:39:37

Yes, it worries me that parent governors don't understand their role - that they are representative of the parents not for the parents. It strikes me as something you need to understand before you even put yourself forward to stand for governor, not something that you should be unsure of when you are already in the post.

willesden Fri 01-Mar-13 09:53:38

As a parent governor of 3 years standing, it scares me that there are governors out there who do not have a clue what they are supposed to be doing. This thread proves it. It is a legally accountable position; volunteer or not. A governing body has amazing powers. Get yourselves down for some training courses, pronto.

BigBoobiedBertha Thu 28-Feb-13 22:25:33

With regards to the Chair and the head being in cahoots, we were told that the chair is no longer allowed to do the HT's performance review because the working relationship between them has to be so close. I am not sure if this is an LEA thing or whether it national but it does go some of the way to ensuring that other governors aren't locked out. Hopefully, if the head knows that he or she will have to accountable for what they do, to somebody other than the Chair, they will be forced to be more open with the govering body as a whole. In theory anyway.

It is also interesting that there are CV governors - I don't think you would get away with that round here. If you don't go to meetings or do the training you are removed as a governor - it has happened and we are all warned that if we miss a certain number of meeting, without good reason, we can be out. You have to make some effort or you don't get to stay.

Hassled - hats off to you. You would have to pay me to be chair. I think, from my limited experience, only having been on one GB, that they do an immense amount of work and have a lot of responsibility.

Maybe that is the way to go - chairs should be paid because it is like a part time job and their expertise and experience as governors is very important. They are the glue that holds everything together and if they aren't any good then the GB as a whole won't work.

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