The Governors’ Song of D. fE Rulings

Let us go then, you and I,
When the agenda is spread across two sides
Of A4, like a run of test-print;
Let us go, along half-deserted corridors,
Through the foyer and the security doors
To some far EYFS classroom with tiny seats
And low blue tables that knock against one’s knees:
One item may involve a tedious argument
About the legislation’s intent
On the question of multiple vice chairs ….. and what the legal position is.
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.

In the room the governors chat
Talking now of this and that.

The uric fog that surrounds some governance regulations
Allows each GB to make their own interpretations,
And when the Handbook leaves them in the dark,
Poking their tongue at advice from the clerk,
Lets them choose the way they think is right.
Multiple vice chairs was what St Custard’s wanted to do,
So, seeing no prohibitions one October night,
They went ahead and elected two.

In the room the governors chat
Talking now of this and that.
In the minutes it should be noted
The decisions and revisions on which you voted.

But indeed there should be time
To wonder, “Why not then three chairs?” and, “Or five vice chairs?”
Time to agree standing orders to make things clear.
Some will say: “But it seems such a good idea!
We share the load, our skills are complementary,
It makes sense to have distributive leadership .

They will say: “And what if both the chair and vice chair are away?
Do we dare
Risk THAT happening?”

Oh, I have known them all already, known them all –
Have known the evenings, the three hour meetings.
I have measured out my life with “apologies received” …
I know the voices thanking the head for a full report
That went on for fifteen pages but didn’t once mention data.
So how should I presume?

And I have known schools who ask the chair to exclude —
Who have committees run and clerked by the headteacher,
And complaints that are brought and heard in full,
By governors who can’t be doing with all that email stuff.

Then how should I begin
To worry about whether they need two vice chairs or ten?
And how should I presume?

Shall I say, I have asked the DfE for guidance?
And waited for a response to my question
Only to be told it is up to each governing body to decide on their procedures?

I should have sent each ragged pair
Scuttling back outside while the GB voted for just one vice chair.

But I grow old … I grow old …
Waiting for definitive answers to be told …….

Shall we part from past procedure? Do I dare to give advice?
I shall wave white flags in future, and not think twice.
I hoped the DfE would clarify the wrongs and rights –
But I do not think they will ever respond to me …


January 2014: The DfE issued guidance on the 2013 legislation, in which they interpret the regulations as allowing more than one chair or vice chair.

Inspired by The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, by T S Eliot

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