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Answers your questions

What difference will the new education Act make to governors? I know some controversial things were proposed but not what became of them.

Very few things are brought into immediate effect by the Act. Much will be dealt with by regulation, but not debated in Parliament, and on some of this we still await details. Some changes have been consulted on since the Act was passed and will be implemented quite soon. Other provisions are of an enabling character and will be activated by those who want to pursue them.

All of these things will change schools a great deal. The consultation which has just ended proposes a broad framework within which governors decide their own constitution and move gradually towards it over the next four years.

Membership can be between nine and 20 regardless of school size. At least a third must be parents and no more than a third staff. Full-time staff may not stand as parent governors, be appointed by the local education authority or co-opted. In voluntary-aided schools, foundation governors will still be in a majority.

The next consultation will probably look at things like quorum, elections and declaring an interest. Again, governors will have more discretion. I hope some provisions will remain, such as those which protect governing bodies against powerful minorities, ensure that far-reaching decisions are taken seriously, and that members do not take part in matters where they cannot be impartial.

We may even be able to add a few useful things ourselves - my favourite is a rule that any three governors should have the right to put things on the agenda.

We also still await information about our role in staff appointments and dismissals, which the Government planned to reduce. Early next year we expect the school forums to be introduced, new bodies in all LEAs composed of local heads andor governors to advise on education budget distribution.

Provisions which will affect us considerably in time are the Government's new power to suspend any of its own restrictions in favour of exceptionally successful schools.

It is all part of the philosophy of encouraging diversity by rewarding strong schools and initiatives.

Annual reports and meetings remain, though parents may have to request the latter. All governing bodies must soon have complaints procedures and there are several references to consulting pupils.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert

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