21st August 1998 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q: The head has said that as a parent governor I should not be on a pay committee because pay is confidential business not to be discussed at the school gate. Is this correct?

A: After all these years this sort of remark makes me very angry. A governor is a governor, and every governor must be treated with equal trust and respect. It is insulting to say a parent governor is more likely to gossip on confidential matters than any other. All need reminding of the rules from time to time, but you have a right to participate in all governor duties as long as you don't stand to gain personally - and it isn't your pay that's being decided.

Show your head this letter, or ask your local training officer to take the matter up at local education authority level. I do believe committees should represent different interests as far as practicable. Teachers should be represented too, though they, of course, should be asked to leave if their rate of pay as an individual is being discussed.

Realistically, too, we have a lot of work to get through, and most reasonable people will compromise to some degree except on issues they feel strongly about. In the last resort, therefore, a chair has to take a vote and, if the outcome is intolerable for a member, he or she may ask for dissent to be recorded.

At the end the value and purpose of bringing together so many interest groups is to have the broadest possible approach to any problem, to make sure all angles are covered and to give well-motivated people a chance to take account of and be influenced by the views of others.

With trust, respect and common purpose, a certain amount of disagreement may be contained without difficulty. It should never be stifled.

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