Joan Sallis Answers governors' questions

One of our co-opted governors is causing great concern, especially among staff. I am a teacher at the school and, although I am not a governor, I am all too aware of what is going on. This woman works in market research and perhaps this explains her approach; although she has only been with us less than a year she is going round asking teachers, office staff, even midday supervisors, what they think about the school, not to mention parents at the gate and pupils. Some teachers feel they are being spied upon, others are worried about the use to which she will put the comments they make and perhaps do the school damage. I don't think the head is aware of this; should we ask her to speak to this governor?

This is an example of the "busy governor" problem at its worst. I'm all for opinion surveys, provided they are well structured and properly managed. And listening is, of course, part of the governor's role, especially elected ones, since they may on occasion need to provide colleagues with an idea of feeling in the "constituency". But individuals should never be left to beaver away on their own with clipboards and leading questions. It is for the governing body as a whole to decide whether and when to use surveys.

I'm surprised a teacher or support staff governor has not reacted to this by now, since it is an issue for the governing body. I don't think the head is the right person to complain to, however; it isn't for the head to tell governors how to behave. The proper thing is to have a word with the chair. The governing body must provide its own discipline, and the chair is the obvious source of this in the first instance.

In the unlikely event of this problem not being solved without a fuss, there is a procedure for a governing body to remove a co-opted governor, which you will find laid down in your Guide to the Law. (Parent and teacher governors are not covered because they are elected, and foundation and local authority governors can only be removed by their appointing body.) It takes place over two meetings and requires a larger than usual quorum. The person must know what is alleged and have a chance to reply, accompanied by a friend if he or she wants. I hope your case won't require such drastic measures.

The 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 www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert

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