11th December 1998 at 00:00

I am a teacher governor in a grant-maintained school. I did not choose the change in its status, and now that it's done I like it even less. I could not have believed, however, that the "first" governors would form a power bloc totally under the control of the head, and that they would give themselves a dominant role on all committees, offering the most uninformative reports to the governing body and brooking no real discussion. In effect we know nothing of what is going on, how the money is spent, even why one of my colleagues faces a disciplinary process. Is there anything in the new Act that will help us?


To deal first with one point, which is different from the rest: the whole governing body could not hope to know why a teacher is facing disciplinary procedures. In most matters everybody ought to know everything, but with disciplinary cases it is essential that when the head has initiated such a procedure it should be kept within a small group so there is a large group of "innocent" governors from which an appeal panel can be drawn. This is in the interests of the individual.

For the rest, yes, the School Standards and Framework Act will help you. This time next year the structure of governing bodies will be changed. There will be only five foundation governors in most former GM secondary schools, and three or four in most primaries. There will be seven parent governors in secondary schools, and five or six in primaries. And, for the first time, there will be two local authority governors in every foundation school, and two or one co-opted governors, so the balance of power will be radically changed, with a majority of other interests over the foundation group. What's more, the Funding Agency for Schools disappears in April, and although I do not suggest that they inhibited open debate, there will soon be scope for appeal to the LEA against malpractice.

Meanwhile, although as an employee you have to be careful, remember that there are a large number of parent governors in GM schools already, and they are a pretty poor lot if they tolerate an "A" team running the show. Even the general body of teachers could make a difference if they spoke out together. I know that the scales are somewhat loaded in favour of one group, and because they (unlike co-opted governors in LEA schools) can vote on new co-options, the danger of a self-perpetuating power bloc cannot be disregarded. But keep on asking questions and encouraging others to do so. Take an active part in voting people on to committees; put candidates forward. Remember that, ultimately, the only legal decisions are those you make as a whole governing body.

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