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WE have been considering a change in the status of the school. It is a major one in terms of the kind of pupils who would be likely to gain admission and its whole character and ethos - in time perhaps even its catchment area.

We have 20 governors, including the head, and only 12 attended the meeting. The vote was seven in favour and five against, but those against included all three parents present and both teacher governors. Those in favour were four local authority governors, two co-opted and the head. I understand from my other fellow parent governors that they would also have voted against.

I don't know about the co-optees but I think all the council people would vote together, so we might still have been outvoted even if there had been a better attendance. I am worried in view of parental feelings. Where do we go from here?

YOU are right to be worried.

First, it was not a quorate meeting in terms of changing school status. That subject requires a two-thirds, not one-third, quorum of those in post and eligible to vote, calculated to the nearest whole number. So it was not a legal decision and you will require another, possibly a special, meeting to repeat it. If this takes place you must ensure that the item is clear on the agenda so that no one can underestimate its importance.

I think you are asking whether such a contested decision should be acted upon, and a proposal opposed by parent and teacher representatives seems to me to be a dicey proposition for the school and the LEA, especially given its community repercussions.

There should be widespread consultation and debate in the school community before any further steps were taken. Even if the proposal is approved it will almost certainly require public notices and a period for local objections. If there are serious objections the Secretary of State may not approve it, or at least consider it critically first.

You should, as a parent governor group, say all this to those who support the change in the school and ask for wide consultation with parents, including a meeting at which objections can be heard, before it is discussed again by governors at all.

It is lucky in a way that the meeting was not quorate. A governing body must act in a spirit of unity where possible, but that does not mean closing ranks on a matter which raises such strong doubt.

You spoke of the "council people" as though they were a bloc who were always voting together. Perhaps I misunderstood, but it sounds as though they are political appointees toeing a party line.

It is much less common now for LEA nominees to be appointed as a representative of the political parties, and even if they are they do not have to follow any particular policy. But like all governors, they must vote according to conscience.

Joan Sallis tries 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. Send questions for Joan Sallis to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London, E1W 1BX

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