Daisy has now been a community governor at the local primary school for a year. She has several years' previous experience of being a governor in another area
Daisy is becoming increasingly concerned about what appears to be a very cosy relationship between the chair of the governing body and the headteacher. The challenge and robust questioning, features of governing body meetings at her previous school, are totally absent. Governors accept what they are being told and things invariably go through "on the nod". Even the two sub-committee chairs appear acquiescent and malleable. Much of what is decided does not seem to come to the full governing body which just seems to rubber stamp decisions.
When she first arrived Daisy told herself that all schools were different and that it was too early to jump to conclusions. Now, however, she is convinced that there are question to raise about achievement data and teaching quality which are being ignored. Her one attempt, at the last GB meeting, to raise a relatively minor cause for concern was swept aside and she felt isolated among the group. What can she do to make her feelings known without alienating everyone and to help change, tactfully, what she is sure is not a very effective governing body?
Daisy needs to tackle this dilemma on a number of fronts simultaneously. Most importantly, she has to work on her own credentials as a governor and to make it clear to the headteacher, the school staff and her fellow governors that she is genuinely interested in the school, attending school functions whenever possible and keeping up to date with what the school is doing. As a member of the governing body, she should prepare herself well for meetings so that she can ask factual, informed questions. She should also volunteer for any roles that might become vacant on the governing body and work hard and effectively on her allotted task, again demonstrating commitment to the school. She has to be, and be seen to be, the school's friend and not its critic – in short, a critical friend.
She should also talk to the chair of governors, candidly but courteously. It may be that there are particular reasons at the present time why the head is being given unquestioning support and she should listen to why this may be so. She should explain, however, that she feels the need to have full discussions about achievement and teaching quality because of the importance of both in external inspection and of the need for governors to understand fully what they are accountable for. If the chair is any good, s/he will listen to her concerns and try to alleviate them. If Daisy receives a negative response, however, she will at least know where she is and can explore other options. One option might be to encourage non-threatening training for the whole governing body on, for example, interpreting data, understanding the SEF or the responsibilities of governors. Secondly, she could talk to some of her fellow governors who might also feel as she does, but need to have the security of numbers before putting their heads above the parapet. Concerted action might achieve collectively what she has bee unable to achieve singly. She should also talk to the headteacher. She could also seek advice from the GOVAS committee or from the local authority, although this latter course of action should be very much as a last resort, given the sensitivities it might raise.
Most of all Daisy should recognise that all of this will take time and that, in the process, she too will learn and maybe even moderate her earlier views. For changing patterns of behaviour in any context is always slow; moreover to be successful, the would-be agent of change needs both patience and humility.