Q. The National Union of Teachers' representative at this school is demanding to be included, as of right, in the preparation of the annual budget. Must we agree?

A. One has to ask why this question arises in the first place. If the preparation of the annual budget is carried out as openly as possible, with genuine consultation with everyone involved, then the union representative would probably not be making this assertion.

The preparation of the budget is the proper responsibility of the governing body and, unless he or she is also a teacher-governor, there is no right of involvement in the process. However, given the worries which many teachers have good reason to have in today's financial climate, it is not surprising that union representatives generally are taking an active and concerned interest in their school budgets. I suggest that it is good management practice, as well as common sense, to keep the unions as well-informed as possible. Their support for securing improvements will be all the stronger, if they fully understand the situation.

Q. A teacher who is leaving us for another post has been asked by his new employer if he can start earlier than the agreed departure date. He would like to do so, but should we hold him to his contract?

A. It is entirely up to you. The teacher's contract provides that there are three resignation dates - April 30, August 31 and December 31 - but there is nothing to prevent the obligation being waived, if both parties agree to do so.

If you can see your way to letting this teacher go early, without detriment to your school and its pupils, there is nothing to stop you from doing so and, of course, you will cease paying his salary on the date of his departure. If, however, you believe that granting this request would be damaging, you are within your rights to refuse.

Q. Should teacher-governors serve on the staffing committee of the governing body?

A. This question comes up very regularly and there are two diametrically opposed schools of thought.

The first says that the pay and conditions of the staff are just about the most important responsibilities carried by governors and, as teacher-governors have a special knowledge of the subject, they have as much right as any other governors to sit on this committee. Indeed, some governing bodies regard them as indispensable.

To the argument that teachers have an interest in the outcome of the committee's deliberations, the response is that the duty to declare a personal interest and to withdraw whenever something directly affecting the individual is discussed is a sufficient safeguard. This interest is defined as existing when the individual's interest is greater than that of the generality of teachers employed in the school.

The opponents of this view say that no teacher should be involved in discussions of issues which affect him or her directly, even if the interest is no greater than that of the generality. They are especially concerned that teachers should participate in discussions of salary issues relating to other staff senior to themselves, including the pay of the head and deputies.

There is no regulation to determine which view is correct, so it is up to each governing body to decide which policy to pursue.

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