Agenda

Our head has been in post many years and is close to retirement. He is not enthusiastic about governors and what he considers their excessive powers compared with when he joined the profession. However, he is pleasant to us, runs a successful school, and we have learnt to live with his prejudices and fight our corner. He is now saying the new Education Act and something called the "Way Forward" mean we no longer have any role in teacher appointments and discipline, that we can fix our own size and membership as we get vacancies, change any rules we think daft, not monitor the budget in detail, and get an after-school club going (which will keep us out of mischief). Can you enlighten us please?

Your head's enthusiasm is running away with him but he sounds fun. The "Way Forward" proposals (see www.dfes.gov.ukconsultations) covered most of the issues you raised, and I have no evidence that the Government is any less serious about them.

But you won't find that anything in the 2002 Act instantly changes governors' powers, duties or rules. Only a handful of provisions come into immediate force and only one affecting governors - setting up local school forums on which heads and governing body representatives advise local education authorities on budgets. It will be spelled out in draft regulations quite soon.

The Act also extends the Secretary of State's powers to make appointments to governing bodies of failing schools. He or she will be able to sack all members and replace them with an interim executive board.

The controversial proposals about teacher appointments (where currently governors themselves decide their detailed involvement), the composition of governing bodies and their working rules will feature in regulations later.

The only trouble is that regulations are not debated, simply laid before Parliament, and there is concern that too many important matters are now dealt with this way.

As for additional powers, the Act will give governors the power to set up and manage community services like cr``eches and after-school clubs. But we already decide about the use of school premises for these enterprises by other agencies and can encourage them, so the change is only about hands-on management.

We shall also be empowered to form or invest in companies providing services (for example, payroll and recruitment) for schools.

I agree that both could be aimed at keeping us out of mischief. They are worthy but don't have much to do with our main role of ensuring accountability in the conduct of the school.

You could remind your head that the Act says "the conduct of the school shall be under the general direction of the governing body". It also reminds us that we should have a key role in improving school performance. Keep fighting your good-natured fight.

www.dfes.gov.ukgovernorindex.cfm for details of the Way Forward proposals and a consultation paper on the constitution of governing bodies. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205, www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert

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