31st July 1998 at 01:00
Q You talk about A and B teams. Would you think ours a case in point?

Our chair (appointee) and another governor (a county councillor who is unemployed) secretly meet the head and deputy on a regular basis in the school to discuss issues likely to come up in governors' meetings. Sometimes the teacher governor attends.

Once or twice actual decisions have been made and we were told that they were matters requiring immediate action which could not wait for the official meeting. No reference to, or report on, a meeting as such is made, though we often have a sense that agenda items have been "sewn up" already.

Is this acceptable? Can we object?

A It is certainly not acceptable: you are being treated as voting fodder and the governing body's legal role usurped.

If any small group meets routinely to talk about governors' business between meetings, it must be an official committee, working party or task group elected by the governing body to do a specific job defined by the latter and producing some kind of minute or report to full governors' meetings. Even then, the range of issues on which such a group has decision-making power is limited by statutory regulation.

On the other hand, some matters - grievance, discipline, exclusions - must be dealt with in a properly constituted committee because of the possibility of an appeal.

You will inevitably have to talk to other governors - see how one bad practice forces us into another? - before you can mount a concerted attack on the behaviour of the head, chair and other governors involved, but you should inform your chair beforehand that you are going to raise it.

You must say plainly as a group that unofficial "committees" are not acceptable to you, that any decisions so made are not legal (even the chair can only act alone in an emergency),and that all issues must be fully and openly discussed by the governing body. Add that any unofficial discussions taking place outside meetings must be reported.

I have assumed that there will be widespread concern among your colleagues when they know what is going on and I hope you can put up a united front. If not, I hope you have the courage to go it alone, and return to it if you lose the first round.

Don't forget to say that decisions made by an unauthorised group areillegal and could endanger the school. You have a chance to elect a new chair early next term, and the first meeting of the year is, in any case, a golden opportunity to put "governors' working practices" on the agenda and discuss how you organise yourselves before you elect the chair.

If you have any problems with the chair trying to block an agenda item, remember that any three governors can call a special meeting.

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