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A governing body cannot have any real authority while it cannot effectively determine what issues it discusses. There are many things wrong in our school, and if I bring any of these up at a meeting I am told they cannot be discussed outside the formal agenda.

I do not know who makes up the agenda but suspect the head decides what we discuss. There is no definition, as far as I know, of what we are allowed to discuss. Can you back me up by saying what you think our remit is and what tactics we employ to ensure that we carry it out?

The first few sentences on governors, in every major education Act since governing bodies on the present model have existed, gives a clear general remit to deal with anything which has a bearing on the performance of the school and its conduct. However, the power to influence the agenda is a bit more slippery. Legally it belongs to the governing body, acting together by majority vote. So why is that difficult?

An agenda needs to be with members in advance of a meeting so that they can give it proper thought and preparation. So schools have to adopt a mechanism for preparing the agenda, which commonly means that the head, chair and clerk do it some days beforehand, and any governor who wants an item included has to ask for it to be included.

But requests will not always be accepted - though getting support from a few colleagues helps - and I agree that it is possible for the head to influence the chair too strongly, even if the chair agrees with the request.

You can then ask at the meeting for the item to be raised under any other business, and if a majority of governors think discussion is urgent, as well as desirable, you will succeed. If supported but not considered urgent, it will have to be on the next agenda or remitted to a committee.

That is the problem - we do not meet often.

It would be a good idea to give, say, three governors the right to have an item on the agenda, if requested, before it is drawn up. Your governing body may agree to this during its annual review of procedures.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert where answers will appear

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