13th April 2001 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

We applied to our local education authority to buy into their clerking service. It is difficult to get a good clerk for the money we can afford and the LEA officer can always give us sound advice if we get into trouble.

We were very surprised when they replied that our clerk would be the county director of education.

We queried the answer as it was obvious that this elevated person would not be our clerk.

We were told in reply that we would get a clerk but it would not always be the same person, because the authority hadn't enough staff.

Is it desirable for us to have a different clerk every time? Will the director's name be on all our correspondence and will this cause confusion?

I have heard of this happening in two local authorities, but I have no idea how common it is.

I can understand that your local authority is trying to provide the service at a reasonable price, and that it may not have enogh staff to back that aim. But that does not make it desirable in my opinion. Legally, governors employ the clerk, and I think that that should be a named person. I don't really think it's ideal for governors to have different clerks at different times for obvious reasons, though it may well be better than the alternatives in some cases.

The part that really concerns me is who will sign letters on your behalf if the director of education is the named person? This could at best lead to confusion and possibly conflict of interest, in the unlikely event that you were, for instance, in dispute with the LEA about something.

I am sure your LEA is acting from good motives, but it does seem to me to have disadvantages and to be out of harmony with the spirit of the clerking arrangements embodied in the law. Could you perhaps get the issue discussed in your local association of governors and find out how others feel? It's always better to speak together.

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