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School Governors are flexing their muscles over a number of issues. In many instances they have refused to implement central or local government policies in such matters as collective worship, key stage 3 assessment, setting illegal budgets.

In most cases a blind eye has been turned, occasionally a local authority has taken action.

In one case the former Inner London Education Authority dismissed two governors it had appointed because they voted for their school to become a city technology college against the authority's policy. ILEA relied on section 21(c) of the 1944 Act which allows local authorities to remove governors appointed by them.

In the lower court ILEA was successful in arguing that it was entitled to take action against the two governors even though the school was a voluntary school.

The Court of Appeal, by a majority, overturned this decision on the grounds that governors of voluntary schools and education authorities had different and quite independent types of responsibility.

In the House of Lords, ILEA accepted that it was unreasonable to require governors to indicate how they would vote on each issue and then to dismiss them if they voted against the authority's policies.

But on the other hand ILEA considered that it was not unreasonable to remove governors if they voted against the authority's wishes on a large and important issue affecting the future of the school.

Their Lordships did not accept this. There could be no degrees of unreasonableness, and the dismissal of the governors was contrary to the governors' independent function. (R v ILEA ex parte Brinyate and another 1989).

Chris Lowe is a legal adviser to the secondary heads association.

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