21st July 2000 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers governors' questions.

You've answered many questions about the new staff governors, but, as one recently elected, I want to tell you that many problems remain and we desperately need clarification of our role.

Are we full and equal governors? I've been told I cannot be on the staffing committee, for a start. I could understand if a member of staff were involved in a grievance or discipline case, but the staffing committee deals with all sorts of general matters central to school affairs. In my innocence I thought staff governors who know the school would be especially useful in these discussions. I'm told I can't be on an appointments panel or clerk committees, which, being quite senior in the school office, I could do well enough. I've also been told it is inappropriate for me to be on curriculum because I'm not a teacher, or on finance because I work alongside the finance officer. The chair and head between them are responsible for all this.

The previous appointee resigned for these reasons but also because he wasn't allowed to bring up any matters of concern to other groups he represented and was excluded from confidential items.

This makes me angry. Some local education authorities do run training courses especially for the new staff governors. I have taken part in some and I'm sorry to say I have heard of all these appallig goings-on. I can only assure you again that you are in every sense a full and equal governor.

There is no excuse for excluding you from confidential items, from appointment panels (unless you stand to gain from the outcome) or from any general school committees. There are no restrictions on staff governors.

A few restrictions apply to anyone employed in the school (not just the head, the teachers and other staff but also parent or LEA governors who happen to work there). They can't be chair, they can't clerk the governing body or the staff dismissal and pupil discipline committees, they can't become co-opted governors and they can't be present for the discussion of an individual's pay or appraisal (although they can be on the relevant committees). They can clerk committees other than the two mentioned. Otherwise, like all other governors, they have to absent themselves if they stand to gain personally from a decision or have a direct conflict of interest.

Your colleague who resigned may have tried to bring up a lot of support staff concerns which aren't really governor business. Or he may have wanted to put the record straight on some matter in which he considered governors hadn't been told the whole truth - both natural. But the governing body has a role only in policy matters that directly or indirectly concern the children's education.

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