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Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q. Do you think governors should be asked to pay for entry to school events, such as the Christmas concert, play or party? I feel the head and staff should be pleased if we are interested and not expect to make money out of it.

A. It gives a good message if governors are given free admission. But if schools attract a cross-section of their community, it may be as hard for governors to fund extras as the parents. I wouldn't make a big issue of it. It depends how difficult the school finds it to cover the cost of pupils' activities. If the parents are poor, it may be hard to fix the price at a level which allows for guests, but even in this case I would hope that the school would be generous to retired and other unwaged governors.

Q. As a head I record for the governors every bit of thinking that goes on in the school and all the significant developments in curriculum, methods, activities and so on. They don't really respond at all. Am I overloading them?

A. Getting the amount and type of information right is one of the biggest problems. You have to start from the fact that governors have jobs and homes to run as well, and their reading time is not infinite, especially as without a back-ground of educational practice and vocabulary they may find it hard to see what you write in context.

The trick is to start from the tasks governors have in law, and use your skills to select the necessary information to back up those tasks. It is far easier for lay people to absorb targeted information than abstract description unrelated to a task. Work hard on choosing concrete and short words and don't be offended if I say that in every profession the use of a lot of specialised language is sometimes a substitute for thinking concretely and freshly about the issues.

Q. We welcome all governors to all committees and we often have an attendance up to double thenumber assigned to the commit-tees. I assume that if it ever came to a vote on the committees with delegated powers, visitors would not vote? But what about the per-sonnel committee, whose proceed-ings are often confidential? Do we allow visitors to stay for all items?

A. You are correct in assuming visitors wouldn't vote. For that reason, when governing bodies have open committee it is wise to remind themselves regularly who is on which, since people may forget which committees they attend as elected members and which for interest. On the question of confidentiality, if visitors are governors they should not be excluded just because the business is confidential, but there is a problem if the committee is discussing matters concerning individual teachers, which might later be the subject of appeal. Even among committee members, you will have to ensure that only a small group deal with such matters, so that you always have enough with no prior knowledge to hear an appeal. It is wiser to exclude visitors from any item that might develop in this way.

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