Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen

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Background: Every two years, the National Governors Association presents awards for school governance. In the category for effective clerking, they seek clerks who demonstrate the ten competencies of a good clerk in supporting the governing board.  The judges are looking for good organising skills; a scrupulous attention to the basic mechanism of running a governing body; a thorough understanding of what the roles and functions of a governing body are; knowledge of the law as it relates to governance; an ability to get on well with people, especially in the key relationships with the chair and head; the ability to be the governing body’s critical friend; and something special that they have brought to the governing body beyond the basics.

At the awards ceremony in 2015, Tristram Hunt, then Shadow Secretary of State for Education, presented the awards for clerking, and spoke about the professionalism of the clerks. He said, “Outstanding boards need outstanding professional support” and he referred to the “enormously important work of the clerks”. This is a tribute to the work of a Clerk to Governors.

Pride and Professionalism

“It is amazing to me,” said Charles Bingley, “how all clerks get to be so very professional as they are.”

“All clerks professional! My dear Charles, what do you mean?” said his sister.

“Yes, all of them, I think, are regarded as professional, and very accomplished at their role. They all sort out agendas, write the minutes, and send out the paperwork in good time. I scarcely know any clerk to governors who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a good clerk being spoken of by their governing body, without being informed that he or she was very professional.”

“Your list of the common extent of being professional,” said Mr Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a clerk who deserves it no otherwise than by providing the draft agenda, or writing up the minutes. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of clerks in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really professional.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of a professional clerk.”

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it,” said Mr Darcy.

“Oh! Certainly,” cried Miss Bingley, “no clerk can be really esteemed as professional who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A clerk must have good organising skills, a thorough knowledge of legislation, be aware of the latest Ofsted expectations, and be able to signpost governors to DfE statutory guidance, to deserve the word; and besides all this, he or she must possess a certain something in their ability to work effectively with the chair and the head, to guide new governors in their duties, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this they must possess,” added Mr Darcy, “and to all this, he or she must yet add something more substantial, in the continued improvement of their understanding of governance by extensive use of the internet and social media, and by attending training and conferences.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six professional clerks. I rather wonder now at your knowing any,” said Elizabeth.

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Recognise this as an extract from Pride and Prejudice? Read the original here :

“It is amazing to me,” said Bingley, “how young ladies can have patience to be so very accomplished as they all are.”

“All young ladies accomplished! My dear Charles, what do you mean?”

“Yes all of them, I think. They all paint tables, cover screens, and net purses. I scarcely know any one who cannot do all this, and I am sure I never heard a young lady spoken of for the first time, without being informed that she was very accomplished.”

“Your list of the common extent of accomplishments,” said Darcy, “has too much truth. The word is applied to many a woman who deserves it no otherwise than by netting a purse, or covering a screen. But I am very far from agreeing with you in your estimation of ladies in general. I cannot boast of knowing more than half a dozen, in the whole range of my acquaintance, that are really accomplished.”

“Nor I, I am sure,” said Miss Bingley.

“Then,” observed Elizabeth, “you must comprehend a great deal in your idea of an accomplished women.”

“Yes; I do comprehend a great deal in it.”

“Oh! certainly,” cried his faithful assistant, “no one can be really esteemed accomplished, who does not greatly surpass what is usually met with. A woman must have a thorough knowledge of music, singing, drawing, dancing, and the modern languages, to deserve the word; and besides all this, she must possess a certain something in her air and manner of walking, the tone of her voice, her address and expressions, or the word will be but half deserved.”

“All this she must possess,” added Darcy, “and to all this she must yet add something more substantial, in the improvement of her mind by extensive reading.”

“I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any.”

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