Book Review : The School Governors’ Yearbook 2015

So, here I am, reading this book in the hope that I can improve my knowledge of being a school governor. I’m one in a primary school, and a novice at that, so I’m hoping that I will learn at least one thing. What I actually find is that I learn more in one afternoon than at any training session – where someone reads verbatim from a slide show, while I gradually fall asleep at the back of the room.

What is different about this read?

First, it is easy to understand and it is informative. After reading the preface, which highlights the new national curriculum and changes to the support for children with special educational needs, I am ready to read on to learn more on what those changes are and how it will affect our school.

The book also helps you to understand the changes with the pupil premium, religious education, and responsibilities.

One of the most frustrating things about being a new governor is a meeting in which unknown acronyms are bandied about, leaving me to fumble through my paperwork to understand what it all means. In the back of this book, however, are three pages with common terms, acronyms and abbreviations – all extremely helpful, in one place and updated each time it is published.

There is also a chapter on possible changes after the election in May next year, depending which party comes into office. I have no doubt that I will purchase this booklet in future so that I can keep up to speed with any changes, new government or not.

The twenty key questions on page 78 were also great. As a Governor it is helpful to check whether we are asking the correct questions and are operating in a sufficiently professional manner. The twenty questions give you examples of gaps or pit falls that you can ask yourself to check you are up to the job. For example, question 12 asks: How effective is our performance management of the head teacher? I found myself wondering how many governing bodies would know the answer to this?!

Highlighted boxes also provide some good “food for thought”. These Talking Point sidebars give succinct case studies or questions related to a topic. For example, it questions how would you react to a child not being given a place because it is a Church of England school and the child is Jewish, even though he lives a few yards from the gates. These deeper questions encourage you to think beyond the routine paperwork and data of governance, which can sometimes feel so overwhelming, and remind you that there are important educational values to ponder.

I am fortunate that my governing body has a good chair and committee structure. The school received an outstanding Ofsted this year, after a lot of hard work by everyone involved. But whatever the current status of your school, you have a huge responsibility in the future education of its pupils; understanding what knowledge you require as a governor is fundamental in assisting with results. This book gives much of it to you, as well as highlighting additional toolkits and websites that you may also find useful.

I find it odd that I have never been made aware of it before. I asked six fellow governors if they had read it, or a previous edition, and five hadn’t. It is so helpful that, governor or not, if you are interested in education you would be interested in reading it.

I am now definitely going to encourage my school to buy some for the library. For my part I’m looking forward to taking my copy in my handbag to our next meeting, so that I can swap fumbling around for acronyms with being the new “most informed” governor on the block.