2nd June 1995 at 01:00
I am a parent governor and have been told that it's not appropriate for me to be on certain committees. Now I'm being kept out of something important.

My sister runs a play group in the church hall. They want to double her rent so she is looking for new premises. We have a mobile classroom which we no longer need, and the question of renting this to the playgroup has come up. Some governors think it would be a good idea to have the playgroup as well as bringing us extra income. But others oppose it because it is a fee-paying concern and might weaken our case for a nursery class.

I am told that I must withdraw from the discussion because I am an interested party. Please tell me my rights. Also should we ask only a modest rent as it is an educational purpose?

Your rights as a parent governor are no different from those of any other governor, and if you have been told in the past that you are not eligible for a pay committee or a disciplinary committee, for instance, that is not right. Without knowing the details I cannot comment further.

The regulations on withdrawal do specifically refer to the interest of a close relative. Therefore it would be unwise for you to take part in the discussion or vote - if it comes to that - especially as it is controversial. If there were any back-biting later on, your interest might be said to have influenced the decision. These rules apply to all governors: if you were excluded it would not this time be anything to do with being a parent.

You may yourself decide to withdraw - and that would be wise - or the governing body might so decide. Nobody else can make that decision - not the chair, the clerk or the head. It must be the governors as a whole. This would also apply to suggestions that you should be excluded from other activities as you have been in the past, so that is a point to watch next time.

As to the rent, it is up to the governing body as a whole: many would be generous to a community activity if they could afford it. What you may not do is charge less than the actual cost of light, heat, caretaking, etc. That would be illegal.

When the NUT boycotted the national tests, my teacher governor colleague said he had to vote against their taking place because of his union policy. I abstained. His action caused comment among staff, as only three of the 12 are members of his union. As his position comes up for re-election soon, the matter is likely to be raised when candidates are considered.

There's nothing wrong with electing union activists as teacher governors: often they are among the most interested and experienced. But it must be made clear that the person elected represents all the staff, and is not there to put over trade union policy.

But when it comes to the line the individual takes or the way he or she votes, that must reflect the interests of the school as he or she sees them, even if it conflicts with the views of the interest group. In your colleague's case, abstention might have been the better course. His mistake was to say he was obliged to vote a certain way.

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