A Parent governor cannot act as an advocate for a parent who complains and a governor’s reaction to any complaint will probably be “have you spoken about this to the class teacher and/or the Headteacher”? However, parent governors can play “a vital two-way communication role: as an ambassador for the school, informing and reassuring parents about the outcome of debates and governing body decisions, and in turn informing fellow governors about parental reactions to such decisions”.
A parent governor is required to put forward their own views to the governing body, rather than acting on behalf of the parent body, but they are in a good position to reflect back parental reactions to policy decisions to fellow governors and to the Headteacher.
It is generally accepted that a good relationship between parents and governors will benefit the whole school community. A former head teacher and chair of governors writes that:
“The reasoning is simple: if governors know what parents want, they will be more able to deliver it; and if parents know what governors do and who they are, they can help to make the governing body itself more effective. These two groups within the school community have many common interests and much to offer each other. Together they have much to contribute to the enhancement of the school as a whole.
Then there’s the group of parent-governors. Parent-governors are, of course, exactly the same as any other governors; they don’t carry a special mandate to act or vote in any particular way. But it is usually assumed that parent-governors will have useful channels of communication with other parents, and that they will, informally at least, represent the sort of views commonly held by parents as a whole within your school. This is a channel of communication that needs to be exploited. Do your parent-governors ever meet together to discuss issues? Do they ever hold feedback meetings for parents? Do they attend PTA meetings to canvass opinions or convey information about proposals and decisions? Do they hold any kind of surgeries or clinics, to which parents can bring any anxieties, complaints or suggestions?
Governors should attend as many functions as possible – and not as VIPs! For example, in my own school, the governors staff the gate at the PTA’s annual summer fair. We organise the rota ourselves. It gives us a chance to meet people and often some serious discussion takes place”.
It’s very effective if governors maintain a presence in the playground at the beginning and end of the school day; especially those governors who are also parents. By so doing, you can pick up the latest concerns, give guidance to parents with complaints, and generally make it very clear that the governors are not some distant, aloof gathering of people who take important decisions and are rather above all this stuff directly involving children: but that you are a group of genuinely concerned people, who know what the school is really like, and are an active part of its community”.