17th February 1995 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions. You recently said that an employee of a school (head, teacher, bursar, etc) was not eligible to chair a committee with delegated powers. Where does it say so, and does this also apply in a grant-maintained school?

I can find no corresponding restriction on employees acting as chairs of committees in GM schools, though an employee may not chair the full governing body in any type of school. The source of the prohibition in LEA schools is Regulation 26(7) of the main governing body regulations (Statutory Instrument 1503 of 1989 with its various amendments) which applies certain rules earlier set out for the full governing body to committees. Among these is Regulation 9(5) which says that an employee may not be chair of the governing body.

There is no corresponding reference back for GM schools, only one to proceedings and minutes of the governing body. It is made clear, however, in the DFE guide to the law for GM schools that the governors as a whole determine how committees should function, so it would presumably be open to them to avoid employees being chairpersons if they particularly wanted to.

It is relevant here that employees in GM schools may not serve as first governors in the school where they are employed (unlike LEA schools where it is clearly stated that employees may serve as governors in any appropriate category in their own schools), so they are in a much less strong position as they are excluded from membership of the group holding the majority of seats.

This is not a rich neighbourhood and we want to make the school available for worthwhile community use - even if those concerned can't pay much. But this means that our already tight budget will get worse. We could generate more income by choosing better funded groups to let the school to. Where do we draw the line?

I support you totally in seeking the entitlement of the whole community to some use of school facilities, free or at reasonable cost, but in a poor neighbourhood not only will parent fund-raising be hard work, but the pupils will have greater needs too - and they must be your main concern. If you had to choose between avoiding much larger classes and choosing the most deserving community users, your duty would be clear.

It helps to consider how letting income can be increased and existing lettings managed more economically. I assume you look at the detail of evening use in terms of concentrating the benefit from caretaking, heat and light - even if it means suggesting certain groups change their evenings. This might free up time for more lucrative lets. Also, discuss your problems with your deserving groups: they might raise funds to help.

A bit more imagination can often be applied to soliciting likely sources of letting income beyond the immediate neighbourhood. Don't rule out investing in some modest extra accommodation or facility with a promising dual use to correct serious sporting or recreational deficiencies in the community. There may be other prospects if your LEA can't fund the initial cost - a minor authority; an industrial sponsor; the Foundation for Sport and the Arts; a local charity or the National Lottery funds, to name but a few.

I hope you also see school and community in terms of mutual enrichment. The school's adult users may have interests and skills they can share in some way with your pupils to repay your hospitality.

A number of us are unhappy about having a school tuck-shop but we have been told the children want it, that many need it, that it generates valuable income, that if the school doesn't sell sweets and crisps and fizzy drinks the children will buy them elsewhere and, finally, that it's none of our business.

Governors have a right to a view. It is an important aspect of the school's care of its pupils and its ethos. It is also an important issue in relations with parents who have a right to a say too, whatever the outcome.

I suspect it's a losing battle but I'm not happy about schools selling children things which are bad for them. The fact that they get them at home and elsewhere is irrelevant: schools should lead, not follow. The number of children who don't get breakfast is an educational concern, but it doesn't help to give them junk which will only spoil their lunch. Far better to sell milk, cereal, fruit, bread rolls, early in the morning. All these matters should be discussed with parents anyway, with all the arguments on both sides clearly set out why don't you raise it in your annual report to parents?

* On January 27 I aired the question of whether governors should routinely meet to determine permanent exclusion, even if parents have accepted the exclusion. Comments are beginning to come in.

Especially interesting is a letter from one officer of a very large LEA who says that after consultation with the DFE, his authority put a requirement in their articles of government to meet in all cases. He adds that para 58 of DFE circular 1094 says that it is "good practice" to meet in all cases, thus implying perhaps that it is not in the DFE view a statutory requirement.

Others have argued that you can't decide not to exercise a discretion without meeting, while one has asked me why I'm looking for trouble when the parents are not! Several people share my own view that a review of the child's case should not depend on how supportive and well-organised the parents are. More views please.

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