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THE report on teacher-governors (TES, February 1) confirms the problems we have locally. There is a desire by colleagues (and particularly the head) to restrict teacher-governors' role; keep them off certain committees and appoint- ment panels; to deny their right to bring staff concerns to the governing body; and censor their contributions either by insisting they clear them in advance or carpeting them for speaking out of turn. Do you agree the problem has got worse? If so, why?

It is my perception also that pressures on staff governors have increased. The most obvious reason is the long-overdue election, two years ago, of the first support-staff representatives. This may have sharpened the anxiety of more timid heads (and more traditional governors) about discussing school affairs in a wide forum. It upsets me to think that school class-distinctions remain so sharp that some feel less willing to talk over delicate matters with lunchtime supervisors, say, than with teachers.

At the same time, schools have had to deal with delicate performance management and pay decisions, in which many heads and governors may feel uncomfortable involving staff. I hate saying all this but ask yourself where the pressures have come from to reduce the minimum staff representation, remove teachers' rights to be parent governors, and keep all governors (outside the leadership group) out of teacher appointments. The link is clear.

I assure you that the current law and regulations treat all governors equally. Minor exceptions - in my view unnecessary - are the exclusion of employees from chairing committees and from the pay and appraisal of individual colleagues (but not from membership of the relevant committees). Staff can be on panels for senior appointments, subject only (like all governors) to withdrawing from any decision from which they might personally gain.

Like other governors they need not treat everything as secret, only items classified as confidential, but of course any reporting must be loyal and responsible. They may bring staff views to the body, but they are not delegates and are free to express their opinions and vote in what they see as the best interests of the school.

Please keep requests for private replies to a minimum, since we aim to help all readers and protect the identity of schools and individuals. Questions to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0207 7823202, or see ask_the_expert

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