Joan Sallis Answers governors' questions

A year has flown by, and we are still stuck with the same chair. Everybody moans and nobody does anything. He's well meaning but keeps everything to himself, trying to "get things settled" outside meetings with the head, who wraps him round his finger and doesn't answer awkward questions. Friends in other schools make me realise there are things we ought to be doing. Advice please on how to move on.

You move on by putting words on paper. One is a nomination form and the other is your voting slip. You need to have a willing successor in mind, and it is a secret ballot. Chairing is hard work but there's plenty of help. (Why don't you have a go?) But if your current chair stands again, and you haven't put in a second advance nomination (or more) in time for the agenda of the first meeting of the year, you are stuck with him because when there's at least one advance nominee, no further nominations can be made.

Whoever it is will have to shake off the legacy of quiet chats with the head. The head will have got used to this comfortable arrangement, and if you are going to change it you will all have to back up your chair and ensure things get discussed. It is your duty to the parents, staff, LEA, church - whoever has been disenfranchised. Your current chair has been able to get away with his neglect because you have let it happen. You are going to have to accept individual responsibility to support the change.

I know your LEA has excellent training - could you nominate a member to take responsibility for acting as a training link to inform you of what is available?

I don't think your LEA publishes a governors' diary or yearbook - a few do - but there is an excellent national one available from Adamson Books. Also, encourage your teacher governors to inform you on the discussions taking place within the school on topical matters, and ask your head in his termly report to look forward as well as back, and flag up issues. Also be alert at meetings and, for example, say: "Can we all discuss that please?"

After such long neglect, you need an alert governing body as well as a new chair.

For details of the 2002-03 governors' yearbook and to place advance orders, contact Adamson Books, Akeman House, High Street, Stretham, Ely, Cambs CB6 3JQ. Tel: 01353 649238 or email TES welcomes your queries, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205, or see

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