I read an interesting blog the other day On being a governor in which Clare made the point that governing can be hard at times. I agree with that as I have experienced it firsthand. So, why and how can governing be hard work?
Firstly, governors have to balance their professional lives, their home lives and their governing body commitments. We hear a great deal about how governors should pay heed to work/life balance for the Head. I’ve never heard anyone say the same about governors! Is it because we are volunteers and people think we do what we do because it’s easy and is like a hobby? Nothing can be further from the truth! Yes, we are volunteers but the great majority of us treat this part of our life just as seriously as we do our professional life. We don’t get paid and most of us are happy with that. We attend training courses, we attend meetings, we visit the school to carry out monitoring visits and we attend school social occasions in order to get to know the school staff and students. Many of us take time off work to do this. The meetings need preparation beforehand, which we do during our own time; time that could be spent with family is spent reading papers and getting ready for the meeting. My children in the past have complained how much time I devote to my governing body. Now, don’t say that this is because I can’t manage my time well! I can, but there have been times when I’ve had to do a lot of background work before even getting to the meeting. Who is looking after or cares for my work/life balance? Not the Head, I can tell you!
Some of you would have experienced various problems in your governing bodies. These can be due to personality clashes, some people not pulling their weight and therefore leaving others to do the majority of the work, a weak governing body which is happy to coast along and if you ask questions thinks you are creating waves, a cosy relationship between your Chair and Head which may mean decisions are made in the Head’s office without involving the rest of the governing body, a Head who thinks the governors should go along with whatever he/she says as it comes from a professional and not a volunteer and so on. Note I haven’t included problems of serious nature which have been making the news recently. So, what do you do if faced with such a situation? If you are lucky, you may have one or two other governors who are equally troubled with what is happening and you can support each other. The very fact that you all are supporting each other means that you are probably in a minority and therefore feel beleaguered. The situation can be worse and you may be all alone with the rest of the governors failing to understand (or not wanting to!) what is wrong. What do you do if this is the case? You are conscious of the fact that governing body matters are confidential and you cannot discuss these outside the governing body, not even with your spouse. You could contact NGA if your governing body is a member, but I’m not clear how NGA operates if two opposite sides of the same governing body contact them. What if the matter is beyond their expertise? Lord Nash had recently announced that he is happy for governors to contact him and that would be treated as whistleblowing. That is a big step to take and requires courage. Again, all these problems, if not unique to governing bodies, are certainly quite different to those you would come across in other walks of life. You are not part of a union and therefore have no union representative and you may not have access to a professional body who can offer advice. I suppose the closest to this is GovernorLine. Again, I have no idea what happens if both sides contact GovernorLine.
So, what do you do? Take a deep breath, keep calm and carry on. Though remember that if it all gets too much then for your sake and for the family’s sake you may need to walk away. I only wish that more people would realise that although governors are volunteers (or perhaps BECAUSE they are volunteers) availability of mechanisms of support for them are needed and do matter.