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Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Q: I am head of a thriving comprehensive. Although fully subscribed we are in a competitive situation and cannot afford to slacken off - there are several equally robust schools within a reasonable distance. The rivalry is friendly, but we all have to look to our position in the popularity stakes.

The question of specialist status came up. Our staff and most of our governors understand the issues and support a bid, and with all the other schools we are steaming ahead. We have one parent governor, however, who has strong objections and thinks it incompatible with the comprehensive principle.

His was the only vote against but he won't give up. He makes fiery speeches and does everything he can to influence others, and I feel almost sabotaged. Have you any advice?

A: I sympathise very much. I know this process requires enormous effort and a head needs to feel supported.

But I also know that many governors who feel strongly about comprehensive education have been through the same kind of turmoil as your rebel, and that is no picnic either. Whether one agrees or not, they are genuine feelings. Some keep quiet and some resign. That does not mean I would support such a governor doing everything he or she can to undermine the majority will.

How has your chair reacted? Has he or she spoken to the governor and emphasised that, while his views are respected, it is wrong to undermine what the majority have legally and freely decided, especially when it is too late to turn back? It is just not fair to those who have to prepare the case, because that is a tremendous strain on key staff.

Schools face many difficult choices and lots of governors feel that on one or another their school is taking the wrong direction, but we knew when we took on the role that majority opinion was the foundation of our work.

Having done our best to influence colleagues beforehand we should accept it once the deed is done, and either resign or drop the subject. But when everything has been done to restrain your colleague, I fear you have to live with it. There is no means of disciplining a parent governor except through persuasion.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205, or see governorsask_ the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear

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