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The ISCG Manual for Governing Bodies and their Clerks for every Governor and Clerk

Posted on May 2nd, 2014

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Posted on May 5th, 2012

“Be careful what you wish for” is a good maxim for every campaigner. A lot of us old activists were campaigning in the 1960s and 70s,  in groups like ACE, CASE and NAGM* for parents’ right to be consulted and involved in their children’s education. We would have been horrified at the diversion of that objective  into this dead end of illusory  parental choice.  Our aim was to make schools more responsive to the needs and aspirations of every child and parent. We were not wishing  for a make-believe right to choose that would result in sought after schools only open to those children whose parents could afford to buy into the catchment or knew how to manipulate the admissions policy. Nor for headlines in the press  “Thousands of children fail to get the school they want.”.

At the time it never occurred to me that there was anything to be said for the old unreconstructed  system of secondary transfer whereby you got a letter from the local authority telling you that on September 1st your child would proceed to XYZ secondary school. But at least this avoided the current futile expenditure of money, time, effort and ingenuity on ever more elaborate admissions arrangements, codes of practice and statutory appeals, resources that would be better spent on supporting schools. Another example of the reasons why the market is not a satisfactory or appropriate tool for school improvement.

I suppose I should not be saying this, as ISCG does a lot of training for appeal panel members – cutting our own throats! But we do believe that if you are going to try to mollify disappointed parents with an independent appeal it needs to be as fair and consistent as possible.

Back then we did get some things right. Elected parent and staff governors brought a welcome reality check to the governing body. Which is presumably why the powers that be seem so anxious to reduce their power and influence. The idea that an “advisory” parents’ council was an adequate substitute for having a  quarter of the governing body consisting of parent governors with full status and voting rights could only have come from those who distrusted parents. Some parents may abuse these rights, but they are not  the only ones to fail to live up to the standards set by the Nolan Committee on standards in public life. All things considered, this seems a good moment to remind ourselves (and politicians) of what these are.

The Nolan Principles

 Selflessness

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Integrity

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

Objectivity

In carrying out public business; including making public appointments; awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits; holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Accountability

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Openness

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Honesty

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to other public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in way that protects the public interest.

Leadership

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.

These principles apply to all aspects of public life.

The Nolan Committee set them out for the benefit of

all who serve the public in any way.

*Advisory Centre for Education

Campaign for State Education

National Association of Governors and Managers