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Governors to sack staff in other schools

Outsiders could be brought in to sack teachers in small schools to spare governors the discomfort of getting rid of people they know socially.

Teachers could be dismissed by governors from another school, according to new government guidance on collaboration in education.

Working together on staffing could particularly benefit small schools, where there may be problems finding enough governors without prior knowledge of a dismissal case to hear appeals, suggests the Department for Education and Skills.

Smaller schools might also want to bring in outsiders because the "closeness of local social contacts make governors uncomfortable about taking decisions on dismissal matters", it says.

The proposals, arising from last year's Education Act, have been criticised by governors, heads and classroom unions.

Stephen Adamson, acting chairman of the National Association of Governors and Managers, said: "I cannot imagine, in any normal circumstances, why a governing body would want to do this.

"Involving governors from another school would be a total abrogation of their responsibilities."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "This guidance is encouraging governors to cop out of their responsibilities.

"There is no guarantee that bringing in another set of governors is going to be less prejudicial."

But Neil Davies, chairman of the National Governors' Council, saw some benefits in involving outside governors in dismissal matters.

"Sometimes you are so close to something, all you can see is grey. Someone with a bit of distance can see you've got your nose against an elephant," he said.

The staffing guidance says school governing bodies would be free to choose whether or not to collaborate with other schools on dismissals - and could do so even if a member of staff's appointment was not jointly made.

A DfES spokesman said: "Collaboration between schools is nothing new in other areas - we have brought staffing in line.

"A lot of schools have said they have problems finding enough governors.

"The most important issue is that everyone gets a fair hearing, and particularly in small schools that can be difficult to do."

* Worries about school funding and making teachers redundant featured heavily in calls to a governor helpline last year.

Even before this year's funding crisis, callers were telling Governorline that they were setting deficit budgets or not introducing workload reforms in order to avoid redundancies.

The helpline's annual report also says headteachers and councils are still keeping governors in the dark about how their school is performing.

Governorline, run by Work Life Support, the trading arm of the Teacher Support Network, took 6,262 calls in 2002 - this was down from 7,339 previously.

But hits on the helpline's expanding website were up, with more than half of visitors from overseas.

As in previous years, the most calls (more than 2,000) were about governors' roles and responsibilities, followed by school management, pupils and parents.

leader 30 Governorline: 08000 722 181; see also

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