27th July 2001 at 01:00
I am a special educational needs assistant and have been staff governor for 18 months. I did not realise I would be representing staff such as cleaners and site workers, but I have tried hard to inform everybody about the agenda in advance, and consult widely on such issues as changes to the school day. I reported all the comments, which, as you can imagine, represented many conflicting points of view. As an ex-teacher I was sad that they were all about personal convenience rather than the children's education.

Now I am getting into deep water. I have an item from our assistant schoolkeeper which is really a complaint about how he is treated by his boss, one from a technician saying he has a load of inappropriate menial jobs, and one from the canteen manager about pupils' behaviour in the dining room. Am I supposed to get these items on the agenda, take them up privately or forget them?

This problem is universal - how to deal with largely work-place issues coming from small groups with real but limited viewpoints. A big school will always employ people who are distanced from the issue of children's education, although they are all essential parts of the team and need to feel they are listened to and cared for. Somehow you have to find a balance. You were quite right to consult carefully about the school day, but two of the three other items you quote are not matters initially for the governing body. It is not a works committee.

Nevertheless, many staff may well think you are there to solve these problems. The assistant schoolkeeper and technician issues are for line management. You can perhaps smooth the path, just as parent governors sometimes do outside the governing body with parents who need to bring individual concerns to the head. If this fails, a reference to their union or a formal grievance procedure may be needed.

The canteen manager's case is a little different because the pupils' behaviour in any part of the premises is an educational issue. Raise this first with the head, and if the governing body has a pastoral or student affairs committee, it should be discussed there. It might be a good idea - certainly when the next election of a staff governor comes up - for the head to speak to support staff about the role of their represent-ative and dispel some misunderstandings. Otherwise the person elected will be under a lot of pressure or the governing body will be overloaded with inappropriate grumbles.

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