Tim Bartlett's new guide to all matters relating to governors and governance is a compact little book that is comprehensive, and to the newcomer, reassuring.
Most governing bodies have some turnover every year, and governor induction can be a time consuming process. For busy heads and governing bodies it is often something that is put to the end of a long list and then drops off the end of the list completely. New governors pick up terminology and routines as they swim along with the current.
How reassuring, therefore, to have this pocket guide to pass across the table before the first meeting.
The book is divided into six sections and each deals with an important area of governance in a no-nonsense way. The government obsession with terminology is covered in the quick-start guide under -˜jargon busting', so does not clutter the main text. After that it is a bit of a rollercoaster of wisdom, experience, very useful tables and check-lists, and the obvious guide on how to tackle Ofsted.
The strength of Tim Barlett's book is that you can stop the rollercoaster at any point, hop off, and consult the appendices. It is not supposed to be read in one sitting, and is of greater use when dipped into from time to time. It is a genuine strength of the way the book is put together that you can think of a problem that crops up for a governing body, leaf through, and quickly find some sound advice.
A lot of the content can be found on the internet. However, if you try an intelligent internet search for some of the issues raised, there is such a glut of information that it is impossible to get a straight answer. To have key information at one's fingertips is a massive time-saver and leaves you with no doubt of the validity of your sources.
Of particular strength is the section that tackles the appointment of a new head teacher. I get the impression that this may not have been part of the original text but has been added by popular demand. I may be wrong, but the weight of the HT appointments sections in the Times Ed. and other job papers in recent years points towards a big demand for clear thinking in this important task. The section of the book that covers this is just the kind of thing a Chair needs to help guide and make a good appointment.
In a way, the great success of this book -” that it is so current -” may end up being its weakness. Education is changing so rapidly that any paper publication is out of date soon after it hits the desks of educators. I sincerely hope that to counter this, Mr Bartlett arranges for an annual update so that his vital book remains a sort of go-to bible for new governors. I am passing my copy on to our new governor as soon as I can, so that she gets the full benefit. I hope Mr Gove has not changed something fundamental before I get the opportunity!