Joan Sallis answers your questions
Q. What is the correct procedure when the time comes to elect a new chair? In my last school - this is my second headship - the clerk did it, but he was an experienced local authority person, whereas my secretary acts as clerk here and she would be too timid to take on this role. It has been suggested that I do it, but I don't know whether this is legal. Also, what is the procedure when there is more than one candidate?
Nothing is laid down but the task is no big deal, even though important in itself. You only have to ask for nominations, see that they are seconded, and supervise the voting. I don't think it would be illegal for you to do it though, of course, you can't be permanent chair. But I understand your hesitation, and you only need to elect any willing governor to conduct the meeting for this one item.
I assume from your letter that your existing chair is standing down, so there is no reason why he or she shouldn't handle the election of a successor. If you have more than one nomination, the vote can either be a show of hands or a secret ballot. Often governors feel happier with the latter, to ensure people are not inhibited and to save hurt feelings.
We have only just discovered that our chairman and the head's secretary are married, as she works under her maiden name. Is this all right when she is a co-opted governor representing the support staff? She has access to much confidential information about teachers which is not available to us as governors.
There is no law against husband and wife being governors of the same school. It may cause problems if one of them is employed in the school, and it would have been wise for them to make the fact known so that no governor puts his or her foot in it. As for confidential information, your head's secretary will have access to a great deal, but I'm sure the head will have impressed on her the need to maintain confidentiality inside and outside the school. It might be wise for an additional cautious word - by the head is best - about remembering to be especially careful when the chair sits the other side of the dinner table, but I wouldn't worry any more.
You would have to be careful if ever the secretary became involved as a staff member in a matter before governors - a pay or conditions question, or, heaven forbid, a disciplinary case. Your chair would have to declare an interest from the outset and play no part.
Our chairman has been with us for 20 years and, to be frank, is past it. But he would never go of his own accord and we don't like to upset him. We now have another candidate and have decided to do the deed. Should we warn him?
Yes, I think it is most unkind not to. Apart from it being so unpleasant to know that people have discussed you behind your back, and having this sprung on you in public, he should have a chance to withdraw withdignity if he wants. As to who should tell him, either the person standing or the nominator might be the best, but you can choose any tactful, experienced governor who knows him well if you prefer.
I know these things are very hard but, as I often say, if being too nice is a problem, shut your eyes and think of the children. In any important matter, better offend an adult than harm them.