School Governing Bodies make important decisions about schools (including decisions on the appointment of the head teacher and on the way in which school funds are spent) and they provide a way for parents and school staff to engage with the school and shape its strategy. School Governing Bodies are a form of local community democracy.
Most school governors are dedicated to their school and give up much time and energy to help support the school and its staff and improve the education it offers to children. But there are important debates around the role of school governors and the decisions they take. Last year’s ‘U turn’ over academy conversion at Hove Park School was, in large part, due to the election of three anti-academy parent governors. Yet the Department for Education now requires all governing bodies of local authority maintained schools to ‘reconstitute’ with much smaller governing bodies. Under the new arrangements schools are only required to have seven governors. One to be nominated by the local authority, two to be elected parent governors and one to be a staff governor. And the guidance explicitly states that their role is ‘not to represent the interests of the constituency from which they were elected or appointed’. So, for example, elected parent governors would not need to represent the views of the majority of parents. Would the new arrangements have made it more difficult for the parents and staff at Hove Park School to resist the proposal to convert the school to an academy? Perhaps co-incidentally, the structure of the new governing bodies mirrors the structures in place for academies. Worryingly it was reported last year that the academy chain set up by Lord Nash – now the Academies Minister – had just one parent representative on the board of its Pimlico Academy. Do we need to strengthen the democratic governance of schools, guard against treating schools as businesses in an educational market or forcing schools to become academies or run for profit ? If so, the following articles from the Reclaiming Schools website might be of interest:
Not for Profit – Nigel Gann (author of Improving School Governance)
For a democratised local school system – Professor Richard Hatcher (Birmingham City University and Professor Ken Jones, Goldsmiths College, University of London)
Making schools our business – Dr Sarah Amsler (University of Lincoln)
The impact of poor school buildings – Dr Pamela Woolner (University of Newcastle)
Remaking school governance – Stewart Ranson (Emeritus Professor, University of Warwick)