21st April 2000 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions.

I AM an experienced governor of two schools. Recently we had a councillor

re-imposed upon us who had previously been disqualified for non-attendance. This has caused great

dissent among present governors. Is it legal?

NO, it isn't legal, but it used to be. Like you, many governors in the past objected to the reinstatement of political nominees who clearly had no intention of attending regularly.

Happily the Government responded to this concern - at least partially.

The new ruling (from September 1999) is that a governor disqualified for non-attendance cannot be re-appointed in the same capacity to the same school for 12 months. This doesn't go as far as I and many others would have liked, but at least it prevents someone from being reinstated immediately, and it also gives a guarded message of disapproval.

There are two additional points to bear in mind.

One is that the Government has also made it clear that we have to be a bit more formal than we used to be in accepting apologies for absence. We have to give a clear approval or disapproval of the absence, which really means saying whether we are satisfied with the reason given.

I have long urged this as good practice, since automatic acceptance of apologies makes a mockery of the disqualification procedure. It has now been incorporated in official guidance.

The Government has also made it clear that it would like to see education authorities recriting more nominees from outside the political party network. Many authorities did this a long time ago, while some have even severed the link with party politics altogether.

I think many very good governors have come, and will continue to come, from the party networks, which attract active citizens in any community. But to make this the only route to being a local education authority representative has let in many who are too busy for current governor duties or who are not interested. This has made the practice unpopular with many other governors.

* I KNOW governors can't be clerks any longer, not in their own school anyway, but is there any objection to a governor with this experience being appointed at a neighbouring school? And can a member of the school's own office staff be clerk?

AS far as I know no objection in the first case (if you know any who have time!). Nor do I know any legal reason why a member of the office staff should not be clerk if it is the general wish.

Since the head cannot legally be clerk, however, you might think it unwise to appoint a junior staff member or one who works closely with the head, because of perhaps being thought ( rightly or not) to be insufficiently independent.

Many might indeed consider any employee of the school to be less than ideal as clerk, though I know it isn't easy to find someone under current legal and financial restrictions, if your local education authority does not provide clerking anymore.

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