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Joan Sallis answers your questions


I am a community governor of some years' standing and I believe I am considered a good colleague. I am conscientious in doing my bit on all the various committees and panels. But I have fallen in love with a new teacher. We are both single and only meet outside school. In a small town the news soon gets around and several fellow governors have suggested that I should resign. I find this extraordinary as our relationship harms no one, and we intend to marry soon. I would say that our relationship has actually strengthened the commitment we share to the school. Some of my fellow governors go out to the pub with teachers and some have bridge evenings and similar events attended by teachers. Why the fuss?

You have done nothing wrong, nor anything detrimental to the school. Nor are you, by any stretch of the imagination, likely to bring it into disrepute.

But there is an issue, although the chances of its being a threat may be a bit remote. The governing body is technically the employer of the staff. We may be involved in interviewing candidates for promotion or making other critical decisions about their role. They come up for non-automatic pay increases at certain levels, and although the main evidence for decisions is professional, these are referred to governors for final endorsement. If a teacher is investigated for professional misconduct or incompetence, the governors are the final appeal body.

A teacher may initiate a grievance case and again governors hear it. Role changes involving staff may be discussed with the governors, and these may affect their promotion prospects. They may be involved in a sticky pupil-exclusion case in which a panel of governors confirms or overturns the decision to exclude permanently.

Of course, you can always keep clear of decisions involving your partner, but the total restriction on your participation might be heavy. None of this is to say that you should resign. No one should say that, unless you yourself feel that it might be simpler to offer your services to another school where you won't always have to watch your step. This may never arise: I am only trying to help you understand the advice you have had.

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 governorsask_ the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear. We always protect the identity of schools and individuals

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