This week the chief Ofsted inspector has called for the governors of schools to become professional, and trained, with salaries for chairmen and vice-chairmen to encourage the best talent available. This is the last thing that schools need. For one thing it will distance children yet further from their parents, the people who bring them into the world and the only people who can be expected to care for them and care about them 24/7. Most people can put work to one side, overnight, at weekends and while on holiday. Children, however, cannot be folded away in a drawer or left immobile in a room while a responsible adult takes a break.
There are no such things as professional parents, and even if there were, some schools would not have them. Schools need a modicum of parents among their governors, for obvious reasons: tapping into parent good will and talent, accessing local knowledge, and transmitting ideas and concerns between governors and the wider parent body quickly and easily.
There is another reason why I would like to see parents on governing bodies, not as volunteers, but as a result of compulsory ballots, yes, names drawn out of hats, a condition of their children attending a school. Parents will share more of the responsibility for their children with teachers and others, not less, but as part of a general raising of our expectations of parents.
It is much easier to bring a child into the world than to bring it up. Parents who give up place a burden on the rest of us and politicians have little interest in making more demands of them. Ask yourself why it is that the owners of a dangerous dog that escapes and harms someone can face prison while the parents of children and young adults who attack and even kill seem not even to be required in court where they might at least be invited to give an account of their parenting.
What is more dangerous, a simple animal or a disaffected, cunning, disaffected teenager who can lie, intimidate, dissemble, plot and manipulate things?
On the governing body of the school I ran there was an awkward parent but her presence served usefully to remind her fellow governors of what we teachers had sometimes to cope with. I can hear heads concerned that ignorant, indifferent or hostile parents’ names might come out of the hat, but these are the very parents who need to learn more about caring and providing responsibly for children. They will have votes and therefore influence and will be open to other parents who will want to make known their views and opinions.
Unfortunately in my opinion, this is unlikely to happen. Can you see, for example, politicians raiding the notional pension pots that we all have for our old age when we abandon, neglect or abuse our children? Sadly, if more is not done to get parents to support their children’s schools, then professionals will walk in, and out, and those many parents who do care will no longer find opportunities to serve, like adult-literacy tutors who can no longer teach as caring amateurs. The message for parents will be that they should step even further aside and leave matters to the professionals.