16th March 2001 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

AS a new staff governor, I am getting my ear bent by cleaners and grounds staff, all those important people who do necessary jobs and whom I don't want to offend, about problems in their daily work, hours, conditions, supervision, relationships etc.

Much as I welcome the arrival of elected staff governors, I've always realised the difficulty you mentioned would arise because of the isolation in which some groups work, the scope for discontent. You have to resist becoming a conduit for such problems. The governing body needs the perspective of all the people you represent, but it can only consider matters affecting the poicies of the school. It is necessary to have a contented staff who feel they are treated fairly, but the governing body is not a works council and there are other ways in which purely workplace issues like hours and duties can be tackled: line management, unions, in the last resort, grievance procedures.

Some education authorities have put on training for new staff governors to clarify points like this. But something more may be necessary - an explanation to the staff on the work of the governing body. Otherwise there may be a build-up of unreasonable resentment against the representative who is seen to be failing to raise things with the governors.

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