31st October 1997 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q We always have one governor taking a special interest in the subject areas at each teacher appointment. All of us enjoy this duty. However, we are only observers, it seems, as the head makes it clear that we do not ask the questions. Also, when the professionals have made their choice we are simply asked to agree to the offer of a post to the favoured candidate. Is this correct?

Q On our interviewing panel the governor is told to ask questions only about the candidate's approach to such matters as relations with parents, pupil welfare, and so on, and leave the teaching side to the head and teachers. Isn't this a bit old-fashioned?

Q Recently I was on an interviewing panel and I was not on the same wavelength as the professionals at all. I thought their choice, after the demonstration lesson I watched, was the poorest candidate, but they ignored me and went with the majority. Surely it is a governors' decision?

Q We play no part at all in teacher selection. Should we?

A These questions, all of which I have received since the beginning of term, show how practice varies. Same law, same process, and questioners three and four come from the same local authority! You couldn't have a better demonstration of the difference the head makes.

To deal with the last first: governors are responsible for all staff appoint-ments and they, acting together, should decide how they want to fulfil this responsibility. They can, at one extreme, delegate it all to the head and, at the other, insist they all take part. Whatever they decide is legal. But they remain responsible, so it is wise to have a system which they have all agreed. In theory, they also decide what form the involvement takes, so the issues in questions one, two and three should have been settled at the same time.

But in practice the degree and nature of governor involvement is a matter of what everybody feels comfortable with in the particular school. We advance, we hope, as professionals become more relaxed and confident working with us.

For the governor to ask no questions at all is conspicuously divisive. She or he should also participate in the discussion leading to a decision. I dislike governors being typecast in the "domestic" roles, but neither would I feel very clever asking technical questions on the delivery of the syllabus in A-level physics. I would, on the other hand, be happy to ask what makes a good lesson, how you keep different ability levels engaged in the lesson, and how you deal with class disruption. I wouldn't feel too offended about being steered to pastoral matters or out-of school activities but, having listened to the discussion, I would want to offer views on the totality, not only on the less specialised questions.

So what if you disagree? It doesn't happen often, but if it does you just have to accept that it wouldn't be right in all but the most exceptional circumstances for a governor to stand out against the professional consensus. Remember that one of the professionals is likely to be working closely with the person appointed every day, while we could be the other side of the world.

My experience is that once co-operative attitudes have been established this is one of the better areas of joint action.

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