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Joan Sallis answers your questions

I am chair of governors at a good school, not too test-bound, where we like to think we have the courage to innovate and encourage creativity.

But I sense more pressure to keep noses clean and sing the Government's song.

Our head has always been among the best, but we feel he's being pressured to conform and keep us in our place. There seems to be a laddish - except it's unisex! - competition taking place to manage the school without our help.

As yet there is no conflict here, but I sense it could arise. How far should we governors go to fight this tendency? Or should we be grateful that we have such an exciting atmosphere, mind our Ps and Qs, and hope that our school keeps its open habits?

Recent questions have revealed a lot of concern about the relationship between managers and governors in general. I don't think central government now understands the fruitful relationship which so many schools are trying to maintain, or the vision of those who built the system we are lucky enough to work in.

I have to remember that most queries come from schools where relationships are under strain and not assume they are typical. A creative school like yours is still a privileged place for a governor to serve, and I don't really think you will succumb to the 'laddish' influences you describe.

I know that doesn't sound very much like me, but I did notice with concern that in your letter you said "to manage (my italics) the school without governors' help". It may not have been significant, but I do have to say that managing the school is still a professional business, and many troubles come from governors who have strayed into school management territory.

I think your priority is still to spread enthusiasm for the school's courageous child-centred ideals and its willingness to share that creativity with you. Remember parents may need reassurance that these ideals work: they too are subject to the prevailing fashions which lead elsewhere.

I just about remember the 1960s when schools put creativity above everything. Like most reforms it overshot its target - and became an excuse for sloppiness in places. The result was parents and politicians lost confidence in schools and we paid a terrible price a generation later when testing went mad. It is taking another 20 years to get the balance back. We mustn't once again forget the need to maintain parent confidence.

Send questions to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert where answers will appear. Please keep requests for private replies to a minimum.

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