On Communicating (written a couple of years ago when I’d started as a school governor).

Communicating must be inherently a good thing.  In those terrible stories in the papers where something has gone badly wrong in a school or hospital or social services department, it’s usually caused by a failure of communication rather than a procedural problem.
First meeting of the ‘Communications working party’ (there was some attempt to define the difference between a working party and a committee but we abandoned that quickly as the kind of topic that can swallow a whole meeting).  All in all, I was impressed and relieved by what Mrs Chadwick and Mrs Emmerson had to say.  I must admit that, originally, there was quite a lot of anger involved in my decision to stand as parent-governor.  My daughter had been put in an impossible position by the demands of another parent, and the school as a whole was unable to cope with the situation successfully for a very long time.  At the centre of the storm were (at least) two anxious and bewildered girls.  My main motivation was to try and make sure the same thing wouldn’t happen to anyone else’s child.  There were also the more general issues of communication that we all know about, which can be summed up in the caption: ‘Hey son, would you like to go to this after-school group I’ve got a letter about – oh it was yesterday!’  So, having been elected, I suppose I went into those first meetings with my mouth open.  I’m glad I did this, though, on the whole, because even if I haven’t made many friends it shows that one can make a difference if one gets involved.  Putting ‘Communicating with Parents: making a new start’ on the agenda of the first meeting led to its being taken up as an important issue by the management of the school.  I was also very impressed by the contribution of another parent, Kelly Youngs, to the meeting – which made me feel justified in interrupting slightly the School’s plans to co-opt their own list of governors.  I felt strongly that two of the other parents who had stood for election and received a healthy number of votes should be co-opted as well. Most of our discussion was about improving channels of communication with parents.  I am convinced that the school is now making a big effort in this area.  My main concern was that most of the talk was about improving systems.  This is very important, of course, but so is talking about the ethos of the school and how this relates to parents.  One of the most worrying things I observed in my years in schools and colleges is how the language and practices of corporate business have taken over educational management in the last two decades.  For example, a very common term in business is ‘unit price’, and in one college I worked in I actually heard managers referring to students as ‘resource units’.  This obviously dehumanizes the very people the college exists to serve – you don’t have to care as much about the feelings of a ‘resource unit’ as you do about a real young man or woman.  This kind of language is part of a method of management with reduces everything to stated goals, actions and procedures, which are far too simplistic and which all have to be checked and rechecked – because a basic assumption of the corporate way is that no one is trusted to simply get on with the job.  This is why so much teachers’ time is taken up with a huge amount of paperwork when they could be giving more individual attention to our children.  It doesn’t work in schools, and as the last few years have shown, it didn’t work for the corporations either! In the meeting, we also discussed ways of trying to re-launch the PFA.  Of course, everyone is so busy these days – but we wondered if some evening social events would be the most conducive way to start to gather together.  Any thoughts?

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One thought on “On Communicating (written a couple of years ago when I’d started as a school governor).

  1. Craig I think you are doing a really good turn by posting a blog about your governing role. I will look forward to all future posts. Re drumming up PFA supports I feel I social evening would benefit, I certainly have friends who are wanting to help keep the PFA alive.

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