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Joan Sallis answers governors' questions

Q As a new governor I soon realised that all my colleagues hated our chairman, who takes too much on himself and has a bullying manner. He was re-elected unopposed. Why?

A I imagine because nobody else had been asked to stand. During the summer holidays we forget past discontents and, when the school year begins, we are not ready with remedies. You are legally obliged to elect someone, and if you haven't found another governor willing to stand against the old one, the latter has to be the one you "choose".

We can't blame anyone but ourselves. We sit there and let the bad things happen. We are too uninformed, too slow or too nice, and we expect somebody else to say the first word. You couldn't help it as a complete newcomer, but do as a group learn from this.

Meanwhile try together to establish some ground-rules to guide the work of the chairman. He is there to run the governing body as you want it run, and if he takes too much power to himself you must challenge it. Firmly and quietly make clear what you want to be consulted about, what papers you want to see, what kind of work-sharing you want to establish.

Sometimes bullies survive because not many people can spare the time to do everything themselves.

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