I AM a parent member of the foundation group in an aided school in town and another aided school in a village. I am active in the church and thought I understood my role, but I am now very confused about where my loyalty lies.

The town school has high standards reflected in national test scores so is over-subscribed, the village one is smaller but takes all comers. As you can imagine, the church congregation in the town has risen dramatically.

I helped draw up the allocation criteria and I think they are fair. Among those with a history of church attendance we took those living nearest. Now people blame me for not looking after parent interests.

In the other school, half just see it as a village school and have no church connection. Many resent the time spent on RE, and some resent being asked to fund-raise.

I'M writing a piece for a Governors' Yearbook* on problems of foundation governors, and faced just these questions. There is no satisfactory solution, and as a foundation governor and a parent you have a difficult role.

In both schools the main need must be for parents to understand the system, and a meeting of interested parents at the beginning of the allocation process might help.

The church provided these schools initially and in consideration of this has been allowed to give preference to families of its own faith. If a popular church school were to expand, church members would have to find some of the funds, and help pay for repairs. As for the village, it is inevitable that where a wide range of people use the local school, some are less keen on the religious observances than others, but all schools by law have to offer worship and religious education, and parents have a right to opt out of these. And all schools fundraise, but it is not compulsory.

As well as the provision for parents to appeal under Section 95 of the 1998 Act, there is provision under Section 90 for parents to object to the Secretary of State or the adjudicator about the criteria.

This was an attempt to bring parental influence in aided schools nearer to the level community schools have, but of course it is not the same as an elected parent governor with no dual loyalty.

I would say that it is quite proper for you to ensure that full awareness of parents' feelings is fed into all decisions and particularly to your fellow foundation members.

*Adamson Books, Akeman House, High St, Stretham, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB6 3JQ Send questions for Joan Sallis to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London, E1W 1BX

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