9th June 1995 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions. As a head I want to increase my governors' involvement in school affairs and, with encouragement, they are developing fast. Now I am beginning to get cold feet. How do I prevent over-involvement?

I don't think you mean over-involvement; I think you mean inappropriate involvement in the wrong things.

I doubt whether governors could possibly put too much time or effort into improving the quality of the decisions which are their responsibility. Most of us fall far short of what is necessary.

Nor do I think governors could ever give too much interest and support to school activities. Do welcome their enthusiasm. What is dangerous is misdirected energy.

Any head who is starting on a crusade to get governors more active must ensure that they understand at the outset what their role is - and isn't - and don't start usurping the professional roles of teaching and day-by-day management. You are not the best person to draw those lines of course. There are too many heads doing that as it is.

Encourage your governors to talk often about their responsibilities and activities, especially at the beginning of a new school year, so that newer or less well-informed ones are brought on board. This should include talking about how they behave when visiting the school, what the purpose of those visits is, how to plan them, and the dangers of making teachers feel pressurised or uneasy.

If you aren't satisfied that your governors are clear enough about these things you may be able to get your governor training service to organise a school-based session on roles and responsibilities.

Our governing body is in dispute about the appointment of a new head. They (rightly in my view) did not accept the panel's recommendation because one of our present deputies was not chosen, and a special meeting has been called to discuss the next step. Although I am a teacher governor I wasn't notified - I only know because a parent governor told me. She also said that the present head decided it would not be proper for me to attend in the circumstances. The meeting is three days away. Can they get away with not even telling me?

I don't know what "in the circumstances" means. If you were likely to apply for the deputy's post, were he to be appointed, you would not be eligible on the ground of personal interest to play any active part. If this was not a factor, your colleagues may also have decided that you were known to be prejudiced in favour of one candidate (though I'm unsure about whether it would be wise to exclude you on that ground).

The real issues now, however, are who decides whether a governor should withdraw, and whether a special meeting is a legal meeting if not all governors have been informed. It is for the whole governing body to decide on eligibility to take part, not the head, and even if the whole governing body had so decided, you were entitled to a notice of the meeting and a word of explanation.

I would doubt very much whether it could be considered a legal meeting if you have had no communication at all, especially if the decision to exclude you was made by the head only.

The proper course would have been to notify you of the meeting, with the first item on the agenda "to discuss whether the teacher governor(s) should withdraw". Then you could have decided whether you wished to attend to fight your cause.

I have no idea whether you now wish to make an issue of it. I suggest you say to the chair that you understand the legality of the meeting may be in doubt if you have not been notified, and give him a chance to put things right.

You should also make the point that it wasn't for the head to decide to exclude you. Alternatively you could just turn up!

Questions should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY Fax: 0171-782 3200

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