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The cost of not paying expenses

The other day I came across a new governor who was already contemplating resigning because, as a lone parent, she could not afford the cost of childcare while attending meetings and training. This should not have been a problem, but her governing body's policy was not to pay expenses.

Legally, a governing body does not have to meet the expenses of its members, but it must decide in principle whether to or not. If it elects to do so, then it is a statutory requirement to have a policy on what expenses can be reimbursed and at what rate.

The moral position leaves no such latitude for decision. A governing body is charged with ensuring there is no unfair discrimination exercised in its school. How can it decide that it is all right for certain disadvantaged groups to face barriers to participation in the governing body itself, when the better off and those in supportive families do not face those same barriers? What kind of example does this attitude set?

Moreover, what does this say about the governing body's commitment to the stakeholder model, representing a wide range of parents in the school?

However, this is not simply a matter of to pay or not to pay expenses. There is a widespread feeling among governors that they should not ask for their costs to be refunded because to do so takes money away from the education of the children. Yet, the sums involved are quite tiny and well within the margin of error of any school budget.

This attitude towards expenses - although perhaps well intentioned - denigrates the work of the governing body by suggesting that it is too unimportant to have resources spent on it. If governors do not think they are worth spending money on, who else is going to take them seriously?

Stephen Adamson, Vice-chair of the National Governors' Association.

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