27th August 1999 at 01:00
I am a governor of two comprehensive schools, which I shall call Downtown and Woodlands. Downtown has

falling numbers and narrowly escaped special measures; Woodlands is a well-supported school in a good neighbourhood, selling itself aggressively because it has to fill an approved increase in accommodation, and it hopes to gain specialist status.

Downtown is threatened with closure, and Woodlands has been asked to comment on the proposal. Am I allowed to speak and vote in this


I suspect that most of the

governors of Woodlands will support the proposal, but I have loyalties to the poor school where people are working very hard to save it.

We await new regulations this term, but I think I am probably safe in quoting regulation 54(5) of the draft circulated for

comment earlier in the year.

This says that a governor shall not be prevented from considering or voting upon any matter because "the interests of the school at which he is a governor ... conflict with the interests of any other school at which he is a


This seems to put you in the clear. Each case of a governor taking part "where there is any reasonable doubt about that person's ability to act impartially" - a wide-ranging new definition in regulation 54(2) - would presumably be considered on its merits. Nevertheless, I cannot think the later sub-section would have been included if it had not been intended to exempt governors with this particular natural

conflict of interest. So much

for rules.

What you do in practice is a matter of personal judgment in the light of what you think about the proposal and the line your

fellow governors at Woodlands are taking.

They may surprise you - in my experience people who become governors are exceptionally sensitive about not being overtly swayed by self-interest. You may be able to reinforce their sensitivities by providing factual information and objective arguments in favour of keeping Downtown open, and I'm sure they will understand that you feel duty-bound to do this.

I feel some distaste for governors who spring on to the bandwagon when a competing school is in trouble. Their motives will not be kindly interpreted, they may be wasting their time behaving so predictably, and unless there is a clear educational benefit to the children of the whole community, silence is sometimes more sensitive.

I know that strictly speaking we act for the school where we are governors, but the existence of a community feeling among governors in an area is sometimes an intangible benefit to our own school.

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