Thursday, 28 February 2013

An open letter to Ofsted's chief inspector

Dear Sir Michael,

I read with interest the reports earlier this week on your proposals to introduce payment for school governors in order to 'provide more professional leadership' in our schools.

Whilst I agree with your views that poor governance must be challenged I do question the logic of your proposal to do this by remunerating governors in excess of the legitimate expenses they incur.

To start with you seem to be confusing the word professional for competent. This is a common mistake. Being a professional means:

  • belonging to a profession
  • engaging in a specific activity as one's main paid occupation rather than as an amateur 

Professional is not primarily defined as competent but as being paid, in the same way that amateur doesn't mean incompetent but means unpaid. Many athletes are amateurs (i.e. unpaid) and are highly competent. Some paid staff are professional but grossly incompetent.

Paying governors is not the answer.

Secondly, you seem to be equating payment with competence. This is a completely false assumption. Whether someone is good at what they do is not fundamentally linked to how much they get paid for doing that job. Our news headlines are frequently filled with stories of paid professionals who are negligent, incompetent and irresponsible. Regardless of remuneration people can be good or bad at what they do.

Paying governors is not the answer.

Thirdly, if securing the skills of competent governors is a challenge for schools, why do you thinking paying people to join governing bodies will succeed? Isn't there a risk that we will instead simply attract people more interested in the money than in the improvement of children's education? Why not spend more time on effective governor recruitment, seeking out the people with the skills that are needed rather than resorting to crude bribery.

Paying governors is not the answer.

These arguments also sit behind the lazy thinking within the voluntary sector that seems to believe charities will be governed better by people who are paid than by volunteers. Whilst a vocal few keep banging on about this, the public are not in favour, the sector do not support it and the government have also ruled out making payment of trustees more common.

I believe your thinking is not only flawed but hugely insulting to the thousands of us who tirelessly work as unpaid volunteers on governing bodies of schools across the land in order to give children a better education.

I urge you to reconsider your proposals.

Yours sincerely.

Rob Jackson
Consultant and trainer specialising in strategic volunteer engagement
Chair of governors of a Lincolsnhire Primary school
School governor for 7+ years


  1. Great letter Rob! Did you get a response?

  2. No DJ, nothing.

    Thanks for the feedback though.

  3. I am also seeing a risk of fund-raising taking precedence over the value of volunteers and their contributions to organizations.
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