The dangers of the head and chair becoming too cosy

Friday 07 October 2016

Even if a school is being run well, a too-close relationship between the head and chair of governors is a cause for concern. Firstly, it means that the chair will feel unable to challenge the head. Then other governors will feel disengaged and the decision-making could become stale as there is no positive tension from broader debate. After all, the head and chair seem to have everything sewn up between them.

While it is imperative for the head and chair to get on, there needs to be a clear demarcation of their respective duties, and space within the relationship to allow the chair to disagree with the head if required. And vice versa.

A matter of trust

Trust and mutual respect between them is essential if a school is to thrive. No one expects a match made in heaven, but a weak and ineffective relationship could lead to a school’s losing its focus.

Therefore, there is no problem in their getting on, but if it is felt that decisions which should be in the domain of all governors have already been made on the golf course, it undermines the confidence and enthusiasm of other board members.

A balance needs to be struck where the two are able to ring each other informally without spending so much time in each other’s pockets so that the division between the two roles becomes blurred.

Often the two individuals may be unaware that there is a problem, or are reluctant to admit it even if it has been politely pointed out to them. There is no easy solution to this but someone, for example, the vice-chair needs to have a discreet and diplomatic word. They could take the constructive angle of “while we know your relationship isn’t compromising the management of the school, it might not look that way to others, including the inspectors”.