Joan Sallis answers your questions

Interviewing for a teaching post is something I feel slightly inadequate about, as I have never done anything like that before. I have a few questions for you.

First, are we supposed to be doing it at all? I thought I had been told that the Government had ruled governors out of this process. Second, although I know some of the things which make a good teacher, I can't ask questions about science which the successful applicant will be in charge of through the school. So what should my role be?

Finally, by an extraordinary coincidence ,I heard that a person intends to apply who teaches my own child in another school. I found this out by accident. Should I be involved? I only know good things about her.

Three questions here. First, the Government does want to discourage schools from using governors in teacher appointments and it made this clear some two years ago. It was part of a drive to encourage delegation, but the relevant statement was only in the guidance to regulations, not in the regulations themselves, so it does not have legal force and some schools are continuing as before.

I have always thought interviewing staff was an important role for governors (especially as the governing body remains legally responsible for them!), partly to encourage attention to community issues in questioning, and partly to provide an independent voice where there might be a professional disagreement about the choice, for instance between head and responsible senior teacher, but mostly to take account of the fact that if the appointment ever puts the school in danger (from an industrial tribunal, say) the governing body carries the can.

I don't think the fact that a candidate teaches your child somewhere else would justify withdrawing, though it might be sensible to mention it. The main aim of the rule about personal interest is to make sure a governor doesn't benefit personally or have difficulty being impartial because of a relationship or interest. Your view will only be a small supplement to a professional decision and second, it doesn't necessarily follow that you will favour that candidate unduly. But you are right to be careful.

Finally, regarding your concerns about your lack of technical expertise, remember you are there in a sense to counteract a narrow subject focus and provide balance. I'm sure you know about some of the things that make a good teacher apart from subject knowledge: attitudes to discipline and family and community matter and so on. You can leave the subject-specific questions to others. The head, departmental head or line manager will probably guide you anyway, and normally you would decide together before the interview on the areas of questioning for each member of the panel.

When it comes to summing up, don't be afraid to contribute.

The TES welcomes your queries. Joan Sallis does her best to answer all letters but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum. We always protect the identity of schools and individuals. Questions should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see governorsask_ the_expert where answers will appear

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