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Dear Stephen - query about governors' remit

Discussion in 'Governors' started by JessicaRabbit1, Mar 4, 2015.

  1. JessicaRabbit1

    JessicaRabbit1 Senior commenter


    I am a teacher and I am also a governor at my kids' school - have been for 5 years. Am in my third year as a teacher.

    At the school where I work, which is an academy, there are regular governors' meetings in which books are scrutinised. They also undertake learning walks outside of school hours to look at displays and books. The feedback from these meetings is often quite critical (it comes from the Head) and offers quite demanding targets for improvement. For example after the latest book scrutiny it appears the governors feel teachers should be double-marking all work, e.g write a comment, child responds, teacher then goes back and writes something else to 'lead learning on' etc etc and a whole dialogue emerges. This is time consuming and not always achievable, frankly.

    At the school where I am a governor at no point have we ever been asked to scrutinise books, nor would I have dreamed of doing so when I was not a qualified teacher. Even now that I am, I would not expect to be asked to do so. We do sometimes sit in on lessons but in the role of 'critical friend' only. The Head does not discuss teacher performance except in the context of results; these are discussed in detail when necessary.

    The school in which I am a governor is a 'good' school; the academy in which I work is RI. Is that the reason for this difference?
  2. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    I chair a gb and would never ask governors to scrutinise books. Most governors are not proficient in doing so anyway. That matter is really operational. That said we do look at books on a random basis to check triangulation but that is led by senior leaders. What you describe would be too invasive at my school. Your senior leaders should in the main be leading back on books. We do use double marking and there are no complaints from staff and it seems to impress ofsted.
  3. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    No official complaints, I daresay - staff rarely put their heads above the parapet these days for obvious reasons (try reading some of the workplace dilemmas posts). Informally, I would guess there's a lot of complaining. You do realise it doubles the marking load, which is already enormous?

    So what is the purpose of it? Surely it's not done solely to impress Ofsted? Does it actually improve the children's achievement? If not, it's a waste of time. If it does, do the results outweigh the increase in workload for the staff? Or is there something the staff currently do which they could stop doing in order to accommodate the increased marking load?
  4. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    chelsea2 - I presume that you are a teacher? The subject is an operational matter for any school and not something governors get involved in. The evidence base of whether it is any good is not strong. I realise it adds to the workload (some schools do tripple marking) of a teacher's week but it is decided by SLT. It may also depend on the category of school whether it is used. I am guessing it is probabably used more in SM and RI schools.
  5. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    I WAS a teacher, and (according to Ofsted & SLT) a good one. After 30+ years, I took early retirement last summer. The workload was no longer sustainable. I was tired, tired of working 18 hour days plus weekends, producing unnecessary, unproductive paperwork. Double marking was just one of those 'final straws'. So the profession has lost yet another competent, experienced teacher.

    I appreciate Governors should not become involved in operational matters. but work-life balance is surely part of their remit? Sometimes teachers need saving from themselves! We try to jump through all the hoops, to fit a quart into a pint pot (and all the other cliches you can throw at it!), to do the best we can. But we end up not being able to see the wood for the trees, and are caught up in endlessly turning the treadmill (sorry - will now stop mixing metaphors). Surely that's where Governors can get involved? Question work-life balance, the effectiveness of new initiatives, what staff no longer have to do when something new is implemented?

    In many schools, long-established teachers like me are getting out, because we can afford to do so (or we're forced out because we're expensive!). Newer, younger teachers just don't know any different, so they try to meet the workload demands, but can't. They either go off sick, or leave the profession completely.....soon I believe there will be a major crisis in teacher recruitment; there already is in retention. My previous school will have lost 5 teachers (out of 16) already this year - by Easter, including both Year 6 teachers. A couple of weeks ago, my LA had 31 jobs advertised for primary, 17 of which were to start in April. No chance. So classes will end up being 'taught' (allegedly) by TAs. That won't help standards to rise.
  6. JessicaRabbit1

    JessicaRabbit1 Senior commenter

    Thanks for the replies; I was pretty sure governors would not get involved in such matters as these. However at staff meetings our Head really does like to insist that it is the governors holding him to account and insisting on all these 'improvements'. Unfortunately, as you say Chelsea, a lot of staff are either too young and scared or too old and fed up of challenging and getting nowhere to put up any sort of a fight.

    Double marking does, in my opinion increase an already overstretched work-life balance and I agree that a recruitment crisis is looming. Many staff are leaving in our school, and if our Head isn't careful he will have no Y6 teachers come September.
  7. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    I have just come back from a quiz night at a school totally unconnected to mine. I asked a couple of teachers whether they did double marking at their school. The remark came back what other marking can you do and that it was no such a big deal. It is undoubtedly a subject of mixed thoughts for teachers. JR1 don't always believe heads who say it's the governors holding them to account, sometimes it is, sometimes it's not.

    I would say to both the above contributors that in my school we take work / life balance very seriously including the heads and anything of concern is dealt with swiftly. I am sorry to hear the stories of staff exits as we don't have too much of that in my neck of the woods. We had over 100 applicants for two positions in school a couple of weeks ago. It is clear however that too many great gems of teachers are leaving the profession and that is such a sad loss.
  8. chelsea2

    chelsea2 Star commenter

    Interesting - I wonder if you're talking about secondary, and my experience is primary? I'm not saying primary teachers work harder, but the nature of being a class teacher, teaching maths & English every day, plus all the other subjects, does mean there are potentially 120+ books to 'double mark' each day.

    And as most primaries are smaller than secondaries, the loss of one teacher has a greater impact. It does seem to be the case, too, that there are more teacher vacancies in primaries at the moment - perhaps because of the increased pupil numbers which have yet to hit secondaries?

    I know there are still some great schools with caring heads, and I have worked for some....I've even been a head myself, for several years, before I decided I wasn't prepared to implement some of the Government's latest edicts and so resigned. I tried to lead by ensuring I never asked a member of staff to do something I wasn't prepared to do myself.
  9. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    I was actually referring to two primaries in my posts. I can't remember a vacancy for many a year that was not filled quickly in my primary and we have also had a partial new build to take increased numbers. I do not work in Education, but I do spend a great deal of my time visiting school at all times of the day and particularly find the car park rather full at 5pm and as an outsider I really do appreciate and understand the considerable amount of work teachers have to do.
  10. Apologies for butting in but regarding the double / triple whatever marking ..... well it is an excellent idea and I cannot see it as anything but a positive thing in helping students.......

    However (and this goes for any other initiative) it is implemented and enforced without any consideration of it's impact on the teacher............ to cut things short, to make this and everything else work so students can benefit PPA needs to be increased and contact time decreased so we can actually do these things positively and effectively.

    Regarding Governors going round and instigating operational matters .... well just no! All operational matters are the total responsibility of the Head and SLT. The Head should share things with governors and let them know what they are doing but governors don't tell the Head what to do. Any visits, observations etc that Governors may do should be to familiarise themselves with what is going on and that the Head and SLT are doing what they say they are doing. Governors who critique individual teachers and then attempt to direct proceedings are way out of line.

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