Joan Sallis answers your questions

I am a parent-governor at a city comprehensive. This year's GCSE results were the worst in our history. We had an informal meeting of contactable governors in a member's house over the holidays about it. Unfortunately the head heard and was angry that she and teacher governors had been excluded. We could not reach them, but would have found it hard to be frank in their presence because they are so defensive. They have always resisted requests for a results "post-mortem" and refused to let governors take part in the review they must be planning.

I understand, but am sorry you met unofficially as a restricted group. This perpetuates the "them and us" situation you are in. Such meetings should be avoided in all but the direst situations as they lead to a divided and dysfunctional governing body.

Having said this, it is unacceptable that you are not encouraged to discuss exam results with staff in and outside the governing body.

I know how hard it can be for teachers in a school such as yours who often work twice as hard to achieve half as much as others, but it is the law that results are not only made public but specifically reported to parents. Governors are responsible for school improvement. They should know why results have fallen so that they can answer questions sensibly - and, if justified, put the best construction on the published figures.

Your role could be a wholly accountable one . Your chair should apologise to the head for the meeting and accept that it was unwise, but make strongly the case for a full meeting soon to review results. If staff remain obdurate you may have to ask the education authority for help: after all, this is normal practice in a well-run school.

Send questions to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 3202, or see ask_the_expert

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