11th August 1995 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions.

I am one of two governors nominated by a political party. I was shocked when my colleague took a line on grant-maintained status which was in conflict with our party's policy. Isn't this a breach of the unwritten rules? Will he be removed?

I think that is unlikely. There have been test cases in the courts on the question of whether appointed governors (foundation as well as local education authority) can be removed for voting against the policy of the appointing body, and the answer was no. The only cases condoned by the courts have been where a governor has ceased to be representative because control of the council has changed hands, but even this was the subject of a dispute.

Once we have become governors, we are free to act in the interests of the school as we see them, not as delegates bound by the policies of our group. We do have a representative role - that is to listen, represent and communicate, especially in the case of parent and teacher governors who are elected and who have a clear constituency.

But when it comes to the meeting, we are not bound to act as advised if we don't think, after listening carefully to all the arguments, that it's right.

People often ask me what the role of an LEA governor consists of. Where, as in your case, the LEA appoints along party lines it is clear where the link is, but a growing number of authorities, including my own, now appoint people for nothing more than demonstrated interest, commitment and usefulness. Some of those so chosen undoubtedly take the line that they are free to do as they like.

But I would say that if appointed by the LEA, you have some obligation to know what its policies are and be prepared to explain them, even if you don't agree with them and have no intention of following them. It is the variety of viewpoints which makes for the richness and strength of the governing body.

Unless there is some very special reason, our head insists we meet on one of the three evenings when the school is booked for evening classes. Is he allowed to do this?

The formal answer is that the governors as a body decide on the dates and times of meetings to suit the convenience of the majority. In practice, we all have to take account of the school's own events, local council or church meetings, other schools which may have the occasional governor in common and so on, so nobody is entirely free.

I would not support a rule so rigid as to create a totally inconvenient situation for governors, but the idea of trying to use evenings when the school has lettings if possible is in everybody's interests since it is a rational use of heat and light, cleaning and caretaking expenses.

As guardians of the budget we should be eager to comply, though not as I said at the expense of the governing body's efficient working or its members' convenience.

We have a similar arrangement in our school, though a few meetings inevitably fall outside it.

Questions should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3200

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