Fed up of toeing the line
One of the raisons d’etre when I started this blog over twelve months ago was to regale you, dear reader, with the ups and downs of being a school governor. For regale read “bore into catatonia”. It hasn’t really worked out that way, looking back. A couple of pieces about the roles and responsibilities. There is also a forthcoming guest post on Nickie’s Typecast blog which I hope all governors who read it will have a good laugh at.
That piece, due to publish on Tuesday, might be my swansong.
The past two years of governance, apart from all the other important stuff, has been all about reorganisation. I don’t want to reboil the cabbage, but if you’re new to this corner of the blogosphere, here’s a recap:
My neck of the woods has a three-tier school system: first schools, middle schools and a high school. Three years ago, under the steam of the Building Schools for the Future project, my local authority (the wonderful Kirklees) decided to use the money to reorganise the system to one of primary and secondary. This had far-reaching repercussions for all the schools in our area (“the pyramid” as it’s known), involving expanding the local high school to admit two extra year groups, and jiggle the first schools to make them primaries (also adding two year groups each).
Early on in the project, the local authority consulted on the decision to reorganise. Many, many people in my town were against the idea. The system worked well. Transitions between schools, although more in number, were well managed and the schools themselves were not foreboding behemoths. The first schools, every last one, are extremely successful. The middle schools give younger children a wider and more varied curriculum than any primary. However, local politics, disunity in the wider community and the caveat that the council will do what the fuck it pleases meant that the response was interpreted as “ooh, yes please, change everything”.
It was a classic case of no strong mandate for no change being taken as a mandate FOR change.
One of the supporters of the proposal was my governing body. I was against it, and said so. But a governing body is a corporate body. The majority view was to support. This may have had something to do with the governing body, at that time, being quite rich with education professionals, always a bad idea in my view.
Three years down the line, and further consultations and £10 million later, nothing tangible has been done. The admittedly bureaucratic process has left the project stuck in the mud. Political shenanigans (ousted Tories, Lib/Lab pacts, further schisms) have marred the process and left the plan seemingly directionless. The death knell sounded on Monday with the announcement that the Building Schools for the Future project was being scrapped.
Suddenly everything is up in the air. There is no money. No money to rebuild and refurbish the local high school. If the high school cannot be remodelled to accommodate further year groups, then what of the plan to reorganise?
My immediate fear was the local authority will attempt to complete the job they half-arsedly started, but on the cheap. I wrote a letter to the local paper saying so and urging them to rethink their entire plans, or else compound their mistakes to date. It was published on Friday, not on the usual letters page but featured prominently alongside columns of editorial. Sadly, for some reason it isn’t online so I can’t link to it, and it is too long to reproduce here.
On Friday evening we attended the school barbecue. It’s a great annual event, well attended and raises a lot of money for the Friends of the School association. The chair of my governing body, who I’ve supported as vice chair for 18 months, stood in for and sat on a complaint panel with, was there too. He all but blanked me. He’s generally an avuncular chap. This can only be about one thing. I’ve wandered off the reservation. I’ve probably pissed the head teacher off by chucking a spanner in the machinery of her ambitions, and if she’s pissed off then the chair of governors will be pissed off too.
Since Friday I’ve thought long and hard about what I did. The letter can’t be unpublished. I’ve had a crisis of confidence over whether it was the right thing to do. Was I too precipitate? Should I have kept my powder dry? Am I guilty of puttiing the bigger picture first instead of looking out for my school? In which case, is my position untenable? It isn’t my role in life to be a thorn. I want to express my views honestly, but I don’t want them to be dissident views from within and be frowned upon for them. I’ve been there before and it became my own personal brick wall which I carried around with me for months.
My term is up in October. I’m seriously considering not standing for re-election.