6th December 1996 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions.

Q. We recently considered the co-option of a governor who had put himself forward. As head I am aware that he has children at the school who are on the "at risk" register. Fortunately he was a long way from being the most suitable candidate in terms of what he had to offer, so the question I was going to ask you did not arise. But I do wonder whether governors are subject to the sort of vetting which applies to others who work with children.

A. Prospective governors are not covered by any such checks, nor are there any disqualifications, apart from bankruptcy, criminal offences or six months' non-attendance. I find it a remarkable omission when you consider the strictness of the rules applying to others involved with children. I remember feeling embarrassed the first time I had to ask volunteer helpers at a holiday play centre I was organising to face fearsome checks, though I knew it was right.

Good governors will involve themselves a great deal with children. So it seems a strange oversight; I believe that at least "nothing known against" in the context of children should be established. It is, of course, difficult in the case you mention, since being on the at risk register does not constitute guilt and you have to be careful with libel and slander.

I have looked at a Home Office consultative document called On the Record which contains proposals about "access to criminal records for employment and related purposes in England and Wales" and which refers to people who have regular contact with children. But I understand that the DFEE does not even consider school governors to be covered by the definition adopted in this document. I shall send them a copy of my reply to your query.

Q. We want to devote a Saturday to an event for all our staff (teaching and support) and governors to discuss the ways we work together or impinge upon each others' work and well-being. We want to cover such matters as governors' concern with staff working conditions and welfare, professional development, pay; staff attendance at governors' meetings and membership of committees; teacher governors and their role; governors' participation in curriculum planning; and getting the most out of governors' visits to the school. But money is proving a problem. Any ideas?

A. Your grant for education support and training (GEST) for school effectiveness could legitimately be used for such an event. I can think of no better purpose. Alternatively, if you subscribe to your LEA's governor training from school funds, their training team would surely think this a most suitable event to support. If all else fails, could you get sponsorship from a local firm? There may be some shop or other business with a particular focus on children - books, toys, school uniform.

Please don't give up, even if you can't make it as professional as you would wish. You can always organise lunch on the basis of each bringing one dish.

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