16th February 2001 at 00:00
Answers your questions

I AM an education authority appointee, nominated by the ruling party on the council. There has never before been any conflict of role, but I find myself strongly opposed to one policy recently adopted by my party as it affects this school. The party leader and other councillors have given me a hard time, saying I must publicly support them, but as a governor seeing all the consequences I cannot vote for something that I think is really wrong. Should I resign? Can they remove me?

LIKE parent and teacher governors you are a representative but not a delegate. That means you must know your party's policies and be able to say what they are, but are still free to speak at governors' meetings for the interests of the school as you see them, and vote as conscience dictates. You do not have to answer to anyone outside the school.

This issue, for both LEA and foundation governors, has led to some well-publicised conflicts which have become case-law. These judgments said quite clearly that such governors could not be compelled to vote in accordance with the policies of those ho appointed them.

Although appointed governors can be replaced at any time "for good and legal reasons" by their appointing body, it was held that an honest disagreement over policy as it affected the school was not an adequate reason. However, it was also stated that it was reasonable to replace party-appointed governors who had ceased to be representative of the appointing body, but that was said in the context of a change of majority on the council where the new ruling party wished to bring in its own representatives.

I am not saying there is no risk that your party may wish to remove you, but if they seek legal advice they will be told what I have just told you. I hope I have made it clear that you do not need to resign. If, on the other hand, you wanted to resign because the conflict in your own mind was making you really unhappy, then I'm sure your fellow governors would understand and respect you for it. No doubt, whatever you do you will continue to argue against this policy in your own party discussions.

Write to Joan at The TES, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX

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