Parent Governors and Governors who are Parents
All governors share responsibility equally for the conduct and welfare of the school but parent governors and governors who are parents have particular insights and potential conflicts. This course is designed to help all governors who are parents of children in the school to explore their role and responsibilities.
Areas to be considered are:
- How and why to become a parent governor;
- A job description and person specification;
- Communicating with parents what we need to tell them, what we need to know about how they feel;
- Supporting the school in the governing body collective responsibility
- Ensuring the accountability of the school, the staff and the governing body.
Nigel Gann writes and lectures widely throughout Wales and England on school improvement and school governance. He is chair of governors of a primary school and a parent governor at a secondary school.
Responding to Parents: Notes for governors
Parents have not always been welcomed into schools, so there are some historical barriers to be broken down. Also, many parents have less than pleasant memories of their own schooldays. These circumstances mean that, even in the most welcoming schools (such as ours), there are obstacles to free communication between parents and teachers.
All governors (but especially parent governors) should act as a channel of communication, interpreting the school to its parent community and the parent community to the school.
Some parents especially those who have got used to other schools expect schools to blame them when things go wrong. Some schools claim that when parents don’t turn up to parents meetings and other events, it’s because they are completely satisfied with the school, or because they are apathetic. It is probable that the answer lies more in the historical obstacles created by schools. Blaming parents is unlikely to help the school to work more closely with them. The following points are worth remembering:
- Parents are the first teachers of their children
- Children spend less than 15% of their year in school
- Children’s first loyalty is always to their parents
- It is very difficult for a school to make a difference to a child’s life chances without the support of the parents
- When parents have different expectations of their children from the schools, they are not necessarily wrong!
- Parents principal relationship with a school is through their own child, their interest in how the school organises itself will always be secondary to that.
- Schools and parents need to work together for the good of the child schools know a lot about teaching and learning, but parents are the experts in their own children
If you are approached by parents about an issue in school:
- Always refer them first to the head teacher (s)he is responsible for all organisational matters and for personnel
- If they are reluctant to speak to the head, offer to accompany them if you can
- If there is an issue about the head teacher, refer them to the chair of governors (again, offer to accompany them if they are reluctant)
- Always listen sympathetically and carefully to the issue raised, but do not take sides, say that you can only listen at this stage and then investigate. Remember there will always be another side to the story
- Promise that someone (if not you) will come back to them by a certain date
- If necessary, point out that they can make a formal written complaint to the governors and/or to the local authority, but that this should be a last resort
- Whether or not you believe the complaint or problem is not important. Any issue needs to be addressed the parent is almost certainly expressing his or her concern in the only way they know how (although the real problem is sometimes hidden under other stuff).
- When people shout, its probably because they don’t think anyone is listening (and sometimes they’re right!) But do not accept aggressive behaviour always tell the aggressive parent that you will ask the chair or head teacher to contact them.