We can have powerful SGBs if we follow the Learning from a barefoot movement model.
SGBs are a rich, untapped resource at poor schools.
School Governing Bodies of poor schools are an untapped resource to help our schools become high performers. I know there are many valid reasons why SGBs cannot perform their duties effectively; there is ample research and anecdotal evidence to support this. However, I believe that if we view the capacity-building of school governors as a key deliverable, we will be amazed at the profound richness that SGBs will bring to schools.
I work closely with School Governing Bodies when I have to act as the resource person during the filling of School Principal or Deputy Principal posts. If you are a regular reader of the School Corridor Tatler blog, you will know that I serve schools in poor, depressed communities in the Lavender Hill-Steenberg belt. The parents who serve on the SGBs of these schools are mainly unemployed folk who have not completed their high school education.
Negative attitude towards SGBs may be biggest barrier.
Generally, we see these parents as ill-qualified to identify the most suitable person to be nominated for these senior management positions at their schools. We assume they do not understand the education system, they do not understand how the school operates and they do not know what is best for their children and the school. At times the educator staff would even express their fears about the parent governors' supposed shortcomings. Even the non-teaching governing body representative would be viewed as incompetent to make such key human resource management decisions.
My limited experience working alongside SGBs.
My experience of working with these parent governors is that they are wise, intelligent people who are misunderstood by us who have paper qualifications and the formal, structured experience of working in education. We intimidate with our lofty language and we make no real effort to simplify the complexities of the recruitment and selection processes. No wonder the parents are scared out of their wits when they have to participate in these critical processes!
I think it is fair to say that - in the main - at these poor schools, the parents' key agenda is that the appointed principal or deputy principal should help the school become a top school. They will tell you that they want someone who cares for the school and who can help their children achieve. They will tell you they want the senior manager to be qualified and experienced; someone who can communicate with the parents, someone who can discipline the children and make sure that teaching and learning take place as it should. There is no fluff, if we do not interfere.
If the parents are clear about the role and responsibility of the senior school manager, half the battle is won. All that matters then, is to mediate the other complexities of the selection process in simple language so that parents are able to apply their minds without prejudice. Remove the threats and the bias then you see how the parents' collective wisdom leads to strong arguments and sound decisions. In most cases both I and the union observers have been in awe of how competent and professional parent governors are when they have to make critical appointments.
Schools should start their own barefoot movement with their SGBs.
Poor schools need to accept that SGBs will not receive adequate training from the district offices, as difficult as this may be to swallow. Parallel to this, schools need to understand that they are the only ones who can make their own SGBs work. Nobody else can do this missionary work. It is really just between the school and their own SGB. This is a daunting task, but it can be done. Process work requires a huge amount of perspiration, dedication and the determination to succeed.
Schools need to put in truckloads of hours to break down the barriers between themselves as the corporate educational professionals and the parents who are the informal, community educational professionals.
If schools want to understand the immense power they have to help unlock the brilliance of their 'sleeping' partner, their SGBs, they just need to watch the story of Sanjit "Bunker" Roy, an Indian social activist and educator who founded Barefoot College. I have included the TED video in this post. I was blown away by this inspirational story that shows us the possibilities of what happens when we include all people's knowledge and skills to serve and improve their communities.
As Sanjit "Bunker" Roy says in his talk: " You don't have to look for solutions outside. Look for solutions within. Listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world.
Do enjoy watching the video multiple times. Share the video with your staff, parents and children and see what seeds can be sown.
Are you ready to unleash your SGBs power? Are you ready to become a barefoot movement school?
Bunker Roy: Learning from a barefoot movement.