19th May 2000 at 01:00
HALF our governors - six - have jobs in the school. Their knowledge would be

valuable if they were free to use it, but they are all afraid to speak out as the head has privately told them that he expects unconditional support. One teacher- governor after another - they don't last long - will say that you get carpeted for speaking out of turn. There is a bad atmosphere in the school and parents are also afraid to complain. What can we do?

This is a fairly common problem, which may be why the Department for Education and Employment decided to ban co-option of people working in the school, which incidentally will remove two of your six when their term of office ends.

For a long time I opposed restrictions on whom groups could elect or appoint, partly because I believed the majority would use common sense in co-options and protect vulnerable colleagues, partly because I didn't believe any headteacher worth his or her salt would try to muzzle tem. Indeed I'm sure the overwhelming majority wouldn't.

There are six more of you. Could you not warn your head how short-sighted it is to suppress debate, removing as it does a vital source of knowledge which other governors need?

Or is there not one trusted and forceful person among you, ideally the chair, who can say so privately? Are you as a governing body doing your stuff on a policy framework on pay, promotions, and other aspects of strategic management which are transparently fair, consistent and honest?

Do you have a clear procedure for staff grievances and parents to bring complaints? Are you directly involved in all appointments and promotions? In other words are you doing your job?

A word of caution. If the governors use their role to make political or union capital, or see it as a means to bring up discontents more appropriate to line management or union, your head may have a legitimate concern.

* Agenda

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