28th July 1995 at 01:00
Joan sallis answers your questions. You often say that the worst sin of a governor is to fail to support majority decisions - and more particularly to go on fighting battles outside the school that they have lost on the governing body. I agree with this, except in the matter of seeking grant-maintained status, which is such an exceptionally fundamental - and currently irreversible - decision for the school.

In most cases a major fight lies ahead for all those who wish to influence parental opinion, even when the governors have had their say. Surely it is unreasonable to expect governors, who by definition have a special commitment to the school, to stay outside the argument?

I don't think my strictures on disloyalty apply to the situation you describe at all. The governors have not made a decision to seek grant-maintained status but only to activate a parent ballot.

The decision they have to defend and be loyal to is the decision whether or not to ballot. In making this decision they have not necessarily expressed a view one way or another: they could be opposed to going GM but still have sound reasons for wanting to let parents vote, though I would agree that in practice many governors declare their colours during their statutory consideration of this matter.

Even if they have done so, that isn't what they vote about. I see no reason why they should not participate in the ensuing debate - as long as they remember that one of their obligations is to ensure that parents get proper objective and balanced information on this, as on other matters concerning the school.

I would make one exception - the headteacher. I always advise heads, even if they are governors (and if they are not, it is downright improper to get involved) to maintain a neutral stance. I say this in their own interests, since I have seen cases where a head has suffered in professional confidence when, having got very involved on one side, he or she loses the day.

The head's situation is different first, because anything he or she says is likely to have more than its due influence on others and second, because the head will be leading the school whatever the outcome.

The school I have just joined has a teacher governor who only has a 0. 2 teaching commitment. He is not able to participate much and it doesn't seem to me a good idea. Is it legal?

The 1986 Act says nothing on this issue, and therefore one must assume that there is no intention of debarring part-time teachers.

The Act does, however, give local authorities the responsibility for making detailed election rules, so you had better make sure there is nothing in your local rules or your Instrument of Government on the subject before you take this as the last word. The Department for Education and Employment circular on the subject at the time referred to part-time teachers and suggested that they (but not supply teachers) should be eligible. But this is only guidance, not regulation.

I agree that it may not be very satisfactory to elect a teacher with such limited scope for involvement and sounding out staff opinion, though a really conscientious one could overcome the problems. Still, in the end, that is up to those who do the electing: it may be that the role wasn't considered by the staff to be very important at the time. Perhaps you can change that.

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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