28th July 2000 at 01:00
I WAS asked to hear (with two colleagues) parent representations against a permanent exclusion. I knew a lot about the pupil, having heard an appeal against his 10-day exclusion last term.

Should I have withdrawn?

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.

I was afflicted with momentary doubt on this same point recently. We are all used to the concept of "no prior involvement" in discipline cases, but now the DfEE requires a statutory discipline committee, things have changed.

Our school, and yours from what you say, has settled for the legal option of a larger group from which a committee can be formed when necessary, but many schools have accepted the standing-committee-of-three model, so there will often have been prior involvement, and it is usually no longer an issue.

What still bothers me is what happens if a chosen governor has had a much more direct involvement - for example, been connected with a victim of the alleged offence, where the rule about inability to be impartial ought to apply. But having heard representations on a previous exclusion is certainly no problem, as long as you remember you are making a judgment on the schools response to happenings on one occasion, and previous behaviour is just general background. I know the DfEE is concerned that governors involved in this task should have experience and apply common standards.

Do you think a chair's term should be limited to, say, three years? Many schools have problems dislodging a sitting tenant.

No. I know many favour it and many organisations require it. And there is nothing to stop you having an understanding among yourselves that usually you will consider a change after a stated period. But it is an artificial protection against a common weakness which we ought to overcome.

The law requires us to make, or confirm, our choice of chair every year, and has now made it a little easier by requiring a secret ballot and encouraging prior nomination. If and when there is a will to change, this should be sufficient.

Incumbents are sometimes too sensitive and other governors too nice, and this should not be encouraged. In everything we do we should want the best governing body for the school, and choosing a chair is a major contribution to that. If we have a superb chair who is willing to go on for four years or more we do not want to be hindered by artificial limits. If we want a change we should be able to achieve it without artificial encouragement.

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