Agenda

Answers your questions

A few of our governors take very seriously the quality - and qualifications - of new recruits and almost work to a formula representing the ideal governing body. They can't do much about local education authority-appointed or parent and teacher governors, but when it comes to co-options someone will always say: "We need someone who understands budgeting," or "We must have a lawyer builder personnel officer business person". They also want to interview them if possible. Surely we are intended to be a rough cross-section of the community and not a professional body?

Many governors reading this will disbelieve your luxury of choice of expertise. Your colleagues don't know they are born. We all welcome a bit of help with the hard bits, but I agree with you entirely that a good governing body is above all representative of the ordinary people who work in, live near, or send their children to the school, and anything else is a bonus.

If a potential co-optee shows interest and has time to spare, and impresses you with evidence of commitment to some kind of community service, say yes before somebody else steps in. Anyway experts can occasionally get too involved in the detail, too anxious to take over a particular area of work, or too threatening to the senior staff.

Sometimes, too, they think their expert contribution excuses them from spending time in the school. But interviewing can be helpful, if only to make sure candidates know and accept the time commitment involved.

OUR school is over-subscribed and has not been able to accept all first choices from the immediate neighbourhood. Some disappointed parents have taken it very badly and have been threatening and abusive both to the head and to governors who live near. I have suffered very badly as chair and a well-known parent governor, and the language and threats have made me fearful for myself and my children. What can we do?

Some heads would write to abusive parents explaining that neither they, the staff nor governors have any say in admissions - if it is a community school - and warn them that threats and abuse will be taken seriously. I have also heard of cases where offenders have been warned by the police.

Parents in general can also be told about the legal provision for individuals to appeal, and also for a group of them to complain against the admission criteria which will have been agreed and strictly applied by the LEA.

All this also applies to voluntary-aided schools, except that here the governors will have made the decisions in individual cases.

I am assuming that all those responsible are satisfied that these decisions have been fairly made against the agreed criteria. It is trickier in church schools, since if over-subscribed they may apply whatever tests of commitment to the faith that have been incorporated in the rules, and by their nature these offer more to argue about.

'The TES' welcomes your queries. Joan Sallis does her best to answer all letters, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum, since we aim to provide helpful information for ALL readers and always protect the identity of schools and individuals. Questions to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London, E1W 1BX

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