Agenda

10th July 1998 at 01:00
Q. I want your help to put an injustice right. I wish I had fought it at the time, but personal considerations made it difficult.

This is a former voluntary-aided, now grant-maintained school. A colleague, a foundation governor, was removed from office after years of faithful service because she stood her ground on a point of principle affecting the children's interests. I was not the only one to think she was right, but we were under heavy pressure.

The issue was sprung on us, replacing the published business of a scheduled meeting - it was not on the agenda. The head and chair accused her of undermining their authority, but then left the meeting. Later, a resolution was passed to ask for her removal from the governing body. The meeting was not minuted, but the resolution was sent to the diocesan schools commission.

The diocesan director said that it is not the appointing body, and the dismissal letter came from the trustees, who are. I wrote to the bishop but only got "contents noted" in return.

A. We always regret letting bad things happen. But you are at least trying to get redress now that you are free to do so. Now to the irregularities.

First, if the item was not on the published agenda the whole governing body should have been asked to agree that it be added.

Second, every full governors' meeting must be minuted.

Third, a governing body as such has no power to secure the removal of a colleague: the most they can do is a vote of censure or a request for resignation (which the governor does not have to accept). Indeed, apart from legal disqualification (such as criminal conviction, bankruptcy or non-attendance), no elected governor may be removed at all.

No appointed governor may be removed except by the appointing body, and that has to be for good reason. The legality of such a dismissal can only be determined finally by the courts and I am sure governors have been dismissed without challenge.

There have been two important cases in which the courts upheld the right of governors to vote according to conscience. In one, a voluntary-aided school, the appointing authority was found to have illegally removed governors for not following the church's official line and had to reinstate them.

In another case, it was held that the local authority could only dismiss governors who had ceased to be representative (that is after elections), and not because they had spoken against the authority's policy.

The Government deliberately set its face against any easier removal of governors when the new School Framework and Standards Bill was being planned, and said in a consultative document that it did not want governors to suffer for expressing inconvenient views.

I understand that the DFEE intends to make this clearer in new guidance following the passage of the new legislation.

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