Q I am quite an experienced teacher governor, but something happened the other day which has never occurred before. Towards the end of the meeting (of the full governing body) we came to an item about "the future of the school" and the chairman, who is new, said it should be treated as confidential. Then to my astonishment he said the observers and the teacher governor would in that case have to leave. I was stunned; too stunned, I suppose, to ask why, and we meekly left the room.
Another teacher who had come for an item on her subject and the chairman of the PTA left with me, but the deputy - there as an observer - didn't move. Nobody challenged it. Our borough is short of primary places and if a new school were built or others expanded it could mean closure for our school, which is the wrong side of town for the growing population. Maybe they thought it might be bad for teacher morale if these possibilities were openly discussed, but rumour is rife.
A The worst thing for morale is rumour and lack of communication. But the simple answer to your question is that no governor should be excluded from a confidential item except: (a) on a matter in which an appeal might ensue (for example, grievance, discipline, exclusion), making it necessary to keep enough governors "clean" to hear the appeal - and normally, for this very reason, these would be discussed in a committee, not full governors - or (b) where the governor might gain personally from the outcome.
So your chair was in error. In any case, he should not have presumed to make that decision himself - it must be made by all the governors.
It was a bad error, since it created first and second-class governors and implied certain governors were less trustworthy than others.
Visitors, on the other hand, should be asked to leave for confidential items, so your deputy should have left with the other non-governors.
What can you do? You can show my reply to your chair if you feel brave enough. But if you would find that hard, I think that you could discuss it with your head who would be able to mount a challenge with more authority next time than you could alone.
You could also tell some of your fellow governors, and add how important it is with a new chair for others to be sure of their ground. I am sure you will cope next time.
More information on this and other topics can be found in "Working Together: Rules and Good Practices for School Governors " (from Northamptonshire Adult Education and Governors Section, Russell House, Rickyard Road, The Arbours, Northampton).
Readers' questions are welcome. Please write to: Joan Sallis, Agenda, TES, Admiral House, 64-66 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax 0171-782-3200; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org