Primary School Parent Governors In A Deprived South Wales Community: How Do Their Experiences Contribute To Our Understanding Of School Governance?

Meredith, Allan (2021). Primary School Parent Governors In A Deprived South Wales Community: How Do Their Experiences Contribute To Our Understanding Of School Governance? EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012aa4

Abstract

This research is about an institution which appears to have inherent structural weaknesses; the stakeholder model of school governance. Specifically, it is about primary school parent governors whose schools are located in a disadvantaged South Wales valley community. The study took place in the context of a programme of reform, where established practices were considered unable to accommodate the demands of contemporary school governance. It exposes the absence of the parent voice in school governance, the nature of this acquiescence and its implications from a practical and theoretical perspective of school governance as a collaborative undertaking.

A mixed methods, interpretivist approach was used. Data was collected from ten participants using a semi structured interview. This was complemented by one open and one closed questionnaire which were used to gather background data. Following the interview phase and participant validation of their accuracy, data were transcribed and uploaded to NVivo qualitative software to assist in preliminary analysis. A thematic approach identified common patterns able to address the research questions.

The research found that, prior to taking office, the participants expressed positive views of what the parent governor role entailed. However, in office no participant played an active governor role. Reasons for this centred on the imbalance in status, knowledge and confidence inherent in the headteacher/professional -governor/amateur relationship. Several participants became resigned to playing a
supportive role. No distinct governor enablers, which promoted governor agency, were identified but several had the potential to do so. There were several barriers.

A strong school-community relationship was important for all participants. The social cohesion, which characterised the distinct socio-cultural-geographic features of the research site, proved a basis to strengthen this relationship. All participants recognised the multifarious negative effects of socio-economic deprivation at school and community level, and the initiatives the school, local authority and the Welsh Government had introduced to ameliorate them.

This thesis fills a gap in the current knowledge of school governance in Welsh primary schools situated in a deprived area. It identifies the factors which restrain governor agency, makes suggestions for how this could be addressed, and examines the effect of deprivation on how governors perceive and execute their role. This is a less developed area, yet fundamental to our understanding of school governance and the relationship of the respective interlocutors. It makes a theoretical and a professional contribution which helps explain governor passivity.
At present many parent governors are stakeholders in name but not in practice. To address this requires a radical and structured approach so that Welsh school governance is inclusive, egalitarian and collegial.

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