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Joan Sallis answers governors' questions

I am a community governor of a large comprehensive. I was co-opted because of my business experience as finance manager of a catering chain. Nobody has told me anything about my role. Should I be concentrating on the budget, keeping a watchful eye on school meals provision, or just being a satisfied ex-parent and helping in any way I can? It's easy to see what the other categories represent but I am a bit puzzled about mine. I sense that teachers are not too keen on the business ethic.

The recommendation that governing bodies, when co-opting, should "have regard" to the desirability of co-opting someone from the business community was part of the governor reform programme of the 1980s. But it acquired new significance after 1988 when schools began to manage their own money.

Schools are now more confident about self-management and don't consider finance an impenetrable mystery. Co-opted governors with financial expertise have to be careful not to dominate budget issues because all are responsible.

Community governors are often ex-parents, like you. They sometimes bring expertise from the world outside - financial, legal, managerial - which they freely give because they believe that education matters. But it is bad to become too typecast: make sure that you are not left all alone with the job of improving school dinners.

Community governors also represent the school's neighbours - residents, shopkeepers, other local businesses, the old, the dog walkers. In the end every governor has the same responsibility: to work for the very best education for every child and to guide the school on a path of improvement.

Each will do so from a different perspective, but it is a shared task and a shared responsibility, and that responsibility is corporate.

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.uk governorsask_ the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear

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