4th August 2000 at 01:00
I am new but keen. The way our meetings are run makes it impossible to break in. Only a few senior governors ever speak, and I don't know whether others are shy, uninterested, or haven't read the papers. I'm not brave enough to assert myself.

We handle induction badly. At least make up your mind now that the next new governor has a planned and civilised introduction to the job.

Meanwhile, why don't you ask the most promising of the silent governors what she thinks is the problem? Ask your chair too - it's his or her responsibility to secure participation. We are obliged to review committee membership every year - silent members shouldn't find it so easy to coast along in a small group. But don't waste the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of being new. That's when you can say: "Please could we all discuss that?" or "Please can we go round the table and make sure everyone is happy before we make that decision?" without people thinking you are winding them up. You might even suggest your governing body starts asking different members to introduce a suitable item now and then. If you've been motivated to write to me you can surely find ways to break up this self-appointed A-team.

One teacher in our school is well-known to be hopeless. As a newparent governor I am expected to do something. This teacher has no lesson plan, can't control the class, loses her temper and punishes wildly. I was told in no uncertain terms that I couldn't raise the matter in a meeting and that the personnel committee was dealing with it. Why the blanket of secrecy? And what can I tell parents?

This is a natural concern of a new governor, about a serious matter. But it would be worse for children if teachers could be dismissed on hearsay.

The investigation process must, by law, be carried out by a small committee, but it will be businesslike and as speedy as possible. This is partly to ensure that the waters are not muddied by unstructured discussion without the formalities that safeguard natural justice, partly so that an impartial group of governors will be available to constitute an appeal panel if the decision is to dismiss a teacher.

The teacher must also be allowed to take part in a targeted and time-limited process of improvement. Quite apart from fairness, a school must conduct the process impecc-ably because of the possibility of an industrial tribunal. You can only assure parents that the school takes teacher quality seriously but that you are not free to discuss individual cases.

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