21st January 2000 at 00:00
COULD you please tell me where the role of a link governor is laid down? I have not been a governor long but I was persuaded to take this on with the idea that it was a good way to get to know people. Everybody seems very vague about what it entails and I can't find anything in my old guide to the law. Perhaps it will be in the new one?

Also a colleague wants me to ask you to write about the role of the special educational needs governor.

Although appointing a link governor is a common practice, it is not a function which has any basis in law, so you won't find it in your guide.

The role means whatever the local education authority concerned (or even in some cases the individual governing body) wants it to mean. Among the large number of local authorities where it has become an accepted role, the vast majority see it as a training link.

This means simply that one governor takes particular responsibility for bringing training opportunities to the notice of colleagues, encourages them to attend training sessions, and conveys to the training officer any particular requests or training needs the governing body may identify which are not being met. In this sense it certainly is a good way of getting to know colleagues.

It can be a key role in the good governing body which has a positive policy on training. By this I mean ensuring you always have training on the agenda; approaching your needs in a planned and co-ordinated way so that between you, you cover and report back on a wide range of the subjects on offer; putting group pressure on those who don't do their bit; and asking for in-house sessions for particular needs for example before an Ofsted inspection, or a headteacher appointment.

The communicating role could extend beyond training to being a general information link to and from the education authority, representing the governing body at meetings, and befriending new governors. This would be a job for an experienced governor, however, and though it may take pressure off the chair or clerk, care needs to be taken to avoid crossed wires.

You can only find out what the expectation is in your education authority or school by asking the chair, clerk, or possibly your governor training team.

An SEN governor (strongly recommended by the Department for Education and Employment, but not compulsory) is the person who, on behalf of the governing body, will make sure that its legal duty to ensure that special needs are properly identified and effectively provided for is fulfilled.

This will mean liaising closely with the staff concerned with SEN, becoming familiar with the way the school's provision is organised, watching that parents' legal rights in the process are honoured, and seeing that special needs funding is separately and properly accounted for as required for the annual report to parents.

It is very important that the whole governing body discusses and receives reports on special needs regularly, however. One of my fears about attaching one governor to a particular subject is that it may encourage others to leave all the contact to that person. In an area like SEN, where the legal duty is so strongly expressed and the importance in the school's work so manifest, the whole governing body must take it seriously.

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