On the first day of a New Year our thoughts often turn to ‘Resolutions’ – my late daughter used to call them ‘Revolutions’ which I actually prefer, Anyway, I digress!
So what are your resolutions this year? I do not particularly make resolutions but I have resolved to think about some of the challenges to come this year and how I am going to keep relationships steady with my Headteachers and my governor colleagues when we have difficult issues to discuss.
I have today read a blog by an anonymous Primary Headteacher which gave me food for thought. Part of his blog was about Governors and I quote :
Despite being a marvellous leader (I’ll stop soon, honest) governance has never been my strong suit. I have, in the past, tended to find it a time draining distraction. The boundaries can so easily be blurred so that too much time is spent sweating the operational stuff which, in my opinion, is my business. I blame everyone! But if I genuinely think this ship is ‘mine’ then the bulk of the fault must lie with me. Near the end of the year I reflected on my performance in relation to governance. I found myself to be too quick to frustration and this, I know, led to governors perceiving me to be difficult. That ain’t classy. I can blame stress. I can blame personality. But the next step of blaming is doing something about it otherwise you’re just a schmuck. So, it’s time to have a change in mind-set.
I feel born again! OK, that’s going a little too far but I do think I’m ready to believe in the power of governance! Seriously. I feel that there is now some clearer understanding between me and the governors regarding what we’re going to be getting up to this year. My performance management, earlier on this year, helped with some of the granularity on this. There was recognition, on both sides, that maintained schools have some pretty huge challenges coming their way so we should probably focus on them rather than the school at an operational level. In short, they trust me to run the school. Likewise, I need their help with the bigger stuff! As for me personally? I need to relax and not take every discussion at governors so personally. I may be the Head but, during those meetings, I am but one governor in a room full of governors.
There were some words that jumped out at me from the text. ‘Stress’ jumped out at me as did ‘performance management’ along with ‘strategic’ and ‘operational’. What could we surmise from what the Headteacher has described?
Governors are responsible for the well-being of their Headteacher but how do they fulfil that duty of care? Is there a good relationship evident between the Chair and/or another governor to whom the Head can talk with frankness and openness? If there isn’t then why? Is there a well-being target on the Head’s PM objectives so a small group of governors take due note of the stresses and strains of the job and having a life outside school? If there isn’t then could one be considered? What would it say?
‘Strategic’ and ‘Operational’ are words that are bandied about and governors should know the difference. Why didn’t they know that difference? What boundaries were crossed? The NGA have plenty to say, rightfully, on this topic! Would mandatory governor training have helped to show governors that the Head is responsible for the day to day running of the school. Would those big decisions to be made about the way forward for the school have been better discussed at a governor away day rather than within committee meetings at school?
I am only surmising on the scenarios that led to this blog post and, it appears, that for 2017 the relationship is ready to become more mutually conducive.
In your heart of hearts you do know when a relationship has become a little tricky and, as adults, we have to find our way around that perhaps with a ‘courageous conversation’ or the school will suffer.
So in this New Year will you be looking at your ‘relationships’? Will you be doing anything differently?
Me? I know I have some of those tricky moments to come but hope that my relationships are honest and open enough for the challenging questions I ask to be seen in the context of doing the best for the children and young people in my schools. I fully expect to be challenged back.
Happy New Year!