Personally speaking: A case of governor overload

Last week Ofsted issued a damning report on education in the London Borough of Hackney, and the Government sent in a special Improvement Team. Brian Weller describes the frustrations of being a governor in a Hackney school

In a passage which rang as true as any in the report by the Office for Standards in Education, the inspectors criticised the lack of consultation with schools over the authority's plan for "transforming Hackney." Consultation, like transformation, is a problem word in Hackney. The LEA and the core of the Council consult late and usually without much consideration for the consultee. A key example last year was a "consultation" over the Christmas holiday, after councillors had decided to withdraw a long paid recruitment supplement from staff, about how staff would like it withdrawn. By the time staff replied, the Council discovered that only governors had the power to vary contracts, passed the buck to schools, but reduced school budgets anyway by the assumed saving. I spent three days digging us out.

Six days at the Whitsun half-term was the time for consulting headteachers and chairs on the principles of trading services under which schools will buy in services such as IT and governor training. Thirty six pages of internal marketspeak were sent to them at their home addresses.

Hackney's new draft Education Development Plan was tabled at a meeting with headteacher, governor, and union representatives in July. It was sent to all Hackney governors in August, during the summer holidays. Comments were requested by 17 September, two weeks into the autumn term. Only around five of the 71 schools will have held governors' meetings by then!

This smacks of an authority covering its back rather than its responsibilities.

Ofsted inspectors, oddly, whilst criticising the LEA for non-delivery, say that Hackney governors have an outmoded view of what an authority ought to provide under local management of schools.

In an authority where it is impossible even to recruit a complement of governors, I hope the Improvement Team will have time to consider the unrealistic burdens transferred to governors by several years of hurried and excessive legislation. More hurried legislation is on the way, with a White Paper in July, schools consultation this term (organised by head- teachers and governors) and a Bill in the autumn. Can David Blunkett make time for some research on the impact of devolved management on schools and governors, and the realism of carrying it further, especially in inner- city schools with most to do and less resources?

My school is probably typical of governor overload. In the same month that my head teacher went permanently sick last September, three governors resigned due to work pressure or moving out. They were an architect, who handled our building issues, an ex LEA adviser who provided lay curriculum expertise, and a solicitor, who managed our contracts and appeals. Those skills are hard to replace. We still have vacancies for governors.

Because of the permanent sickness, resolved by retirement only this month, we have an acting Head and Deputy. They have performed wonders while learning on the job. Hackney's "transformation" management training did not include headteachers. Last term LEA personnel advisers told me that as Chair of Governors I was line manager to the headteacher. Once upon a time that was an LEA function. I'm streetwise, managerially, but allocating line management of headteachers to non-professional, part-time volunteers is crazy.

So, after our school Ofsted inspection in November we can look forward to filling the headteacher vacancy. Last time round, in 1993, that involved around a dozen meetings and training sessions. We can also try again to recruit the teachers it has been impossible to appoint in advance of our Ofsted inspection (most teachers elsewhere have already experienced one inspection, and don't want another with us). Then we tackle the 1997/98 school budget, hoping that the LEA's financial information service will by then be functioning.

That work programme would be taxing in an authority with political and professional leadership. In Hackney there is no overall political control, no Chair of Education, "one of the most impoverished urban areas in Western Europe" (Ofsted), and of course no Chief Officer in the LEA.

So, finally, the Improvement Team needs to impact quickly on the continuing vacancy for a Chief Education Officer, now in its sixteenth month and filled only temporarily.

The writer is Chair of Governors at a Hackney primary school, and Secretary of The Association of Chairs in Hackney Education. He writes here in a personal capacity.

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to American media group
Extras
indybest
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidate on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Science Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Science Teachers needed for s...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?