11th February 2000 at 00:00
THE GOVERNORS in our large primary school are a good mix. We don't instantly agree on everything but have good discussions and usually reach a decision all can accept. The only fly in the ointment is that we have a head and chair who, if you don't watch them, try to get their own way.

Last November we had to make a difficult decision affecting the size and intake of our school. We had an excellent discussion and for once our head and chair did not dominate. By a good majority we decided on something that they found hard to accept, but which most parents would have strongly supported. We thought that was the end of it, but shortly before Christmas the chair called a special meeting to discuss, we were told, a possible budget problem arising from different methods of paying for special needs provision.

Nothing else was on the agenda except a few social items. The date clashed with a council committee meeting, the infant department's nativity play, and a local voluntary group's social, resulting in a very small turn-out (deliberate?).

To our surprise, new papers on the reorganisation were tabled and we were bounced into reopening it. The earlier decision was reversed by a tiny margin. I thought this was a dirty trick. We also co-opted a new governor, related to the chair, and someone rejected at the earlier meeting, which I also thought was taking advantage.

The whole story is irregular and you must act together to see that the corporate power of the governing body is not undermined.

The ew governors' regulations (number 35) state that a previous resolution of a governing body may not be rescinded or varied at a subsequent meeting unless a proposal for such action was on the agenda for that meeting. Therefore, both your second decision on the reorganisation and your co-option are illegal: in both cases the November decision stands.

In any case, the co-option of a governor requires a special quorum of two-thirds of those eligible to vote (regulation 37). It sounds from what you say that this is unlikely to have been achieved, especially as earlier co-optees are not eligible to vote in subsequent co-options.

You say elsewhere that your chair is a business co-optee, so he should not have voted. Even if he were not himself co-opted, he should have declared an interest and abstained on the co-option of a relative (regulation 57, covering "reasonable doubt about ...ability to act impartially").

These provisions are specifically designed to prevent a wide range of "dirty tricks" by which forceful individuals may seek to wield excessive power and undermine democratic principles. (If your head and chair do not merit this description they are, at the very least, dangerously ill-informed). The law supports you in refusing to be "jumped" into unwanted outcomes, and

perhaps you should also ask yourselves whether your chair sufficiently respects you as a group. The same regulations include a procedure to remove a chair who has lost the trust of a large majority of colleagues.

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