We’ve established that governing matters. We’ve also established that it matters that it is done well. Question is how do we ensure that our schools have the best governing bodies possible? One of the answers coming from Sir M Wilshaw is money. Yes, money! Sir M Wilshaw has been advocating paying governors. He seems to think that if we pay people then more people with the right skills will be prepared to become governors, especially in those schools which traditionally have trouble attracting people. According to him, “If we are serious about raising standards in schools with a legacy of underperformance, we shouldn’t rule out the notion of a small number of paid governors with the necessary expertise working alongside volunteer and community members.”
I will admit that this notion of paying people to govern our schools makes me uncomfortable. Firstly, the concept that if we pay people, we will have them queuing outside the doors of challenging schools is, in my opinion, wrong. We need to understand why these schools do not attract governors, but lack of money, I’m sure, is not one of the reasons. I had recently been speaking to someone who is a Governor in a school which serves a very mixed community. He said that the governors at his school came from professional backgrounds. Parents who were not professional did not put themselves forward for parent governor elections, thinking that all governors were “posh” and that they would not fit in. These parents did not necessarily earn less than the ones who did stand for election; they just thought that becoming a school governor was not for them. They failed to appreciate that they, too, may have much needed skills which they could bring to the governing body. Paying them, in my opinion, would not change their mindsets.
If you do pay governors, then it follows that there should be some sort of performance management for them. Who will do it and how will it be done? Is it not better to encourage every governing body to carry out routine skill audits, identify weaknesses and then remedy them? This could be done by training, mentoring and making sure that governing bodies do not have people on it who are there just to beef up their CV, who attend a few meetings and are never seen at any training sessions. (On a lighter note, if governors are paid, then the only advantage I can think of is that no one will be able to use “I’m only a volunteer” excuse for their shortcomings!).
Then there is the question of where exactly is this money going to come from. Will we pay governors out of school budgets? Schools struggle as it is; how will we justify taking money away from the school to pay people when we have so many willing to do it for free? Assuming we can find a pot of money from somewhere, how much will we pay them? If the idea is to attract highly skilled professionals then surely we must be prepared to pay them enough to make it worth their while. If we accept the argument that paying people will make them more willing to become governors, then we must also consider that they would want to be paid a sum which will be in line to what they earn in their day job.
If we do find a pot of money we to pay a small core of good governors, is it not better to use that money to train up those who are perhaps not as good as we would like them to be? This way we may end up with a governing body where all governors are good rather than just a small core. Recently governors on Twitter were debating if training should be made mandatory. Most of the governors taking part in this discussion were of the opinion that it should be. This discussion was facilitated by @UKGovChat, a relatively new presence on Twitter. As far as I can tell #UKGovChat have been on the Twitter scene for a few weeks and have already built up a following. They “get together” on Sunday evenings and talk about governing matters. As they are willing to give up part of their Sunday nights talking governance, I bet none of them want paying for serving on their governing bodies!
If payment was introduced, then considering how many times I’ve burnt the candle at both ends, my governing body couldn’t afford me!
To conclude, this governor does not think we should pay governors. I am happy to be a volunteer and if offered a stipend I will refuse payment. For me, being a volunteer is important, and money doesn’t matter!