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Answers governors' questions

I am a parent governor in a popular infants' school in a prosperous area where many people are ambitious for their children. They put a lot of pressure on the head, staff and governors about anything they don't like, often based on their ambitions for their children rather than the good of all.

This has been made clear recently. We have two parallel reception classes. Our head is keen to keep a mix of ages in each class, rather than separating the older ones. A few families have decided their children (among the older ones) are among the more advanced. They want segregated classes so their children can advance faster.

The parents have asked me to support them. They gave me their votes and expect me to deliver. So should I take this up?

Parent governors are representatives, not delegates. You must listen to what all parents say, but try to judge what is in the best interests of all the children.

Children vary enormously in maturity between four and five. But you must remember that the arrangement of classes is a professional matter that should be left to the head and staff.

The kind of neighbourhood you describe is one where you will be under a lot of pressure, and as time goes on you may be inundated with requests to take up issues on behalf of individual children. You must be firm. The governing body deals with policy issues affecting all children; governors who forget this are likely to lose what influence they have, to the detriment of all. Individual problems and complaints must be firmly redirected towards the class teacher or head.

It might be worth discussing with your head how to get this message across to parents. Talking to them about the governors' role would be a great help. It would be better still if the school set up an hour a week when a staff member could deal with individual questions.

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: 020 7782 32023205; or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert

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