17th August 2001 at 01:00
A small group of parents at our primary school get together informally for a cup of tea and a chat now and then. We have no parent teacher association as such, and it is helpful to me as a parent governor to have this opportunity to keep them informed. I give them fairly full accounts of any recent governors' meetings but never disclose anything confidential.

Recently, some of the things I had said got back to the head and he gave me a dressing-down. There had been one or two amusing incidents at the meeting in question, things I knew this small group would appreciate. But something had upset the head and made him think we were "taking the mickey". He said I must keep everything confidential. The parents are entitled to see the published minutes anyway, but I must show respect for him, the teachers, councillors, and so on. Surely this is a bit heavy?

It is a bit heavy to suggest that everything that happens at a governors' meeting is confidential or that there can be no source of information about decisions made other than the published minutes. But I suspect you have gone rather beyond what is proper. I know that minutes are slow to appear, and availability in the school office isn't of practical help to many parents, for various reasons. Governors are entitled to report the substance of decisions to their interest group and, where necessary, perhaps the gist of the arguments advanced in support of alternative options. But this is as far as a good governor should go.

Loyalty is essential. You must never report what individuals said or how they voted, and never say anything that puts an individual or the governing body in a bad light. It may have been funny at the time but resist the temptation to extract more entertainment from it. Remember that the governing body's authority is corporate, and that whatever process led up to decisions the outcome is owned by everybody. It is a body with a serious job to do and that should be respected.

I am concerned about this group, however. Those we find easy to talk to are often not the same as those who need to be listened to, and they may be diverting you from wider contact. It's a pity you don't have a school association. A "meet-your-governors" session or pinning a copy of the agenda on the parents' noticeboard before the meeting with a note asking for parents' views, if any, would greatly help you.

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