21st February 2003 at 00:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

I am the head of a large comprehensive in an affluent area. Many of our parents are ambitious for their children, but we have a mixed intake and try to do the best we can for all.

Up to now I have worked well with my governors who have been supportive and loyal. But now one of our new parent governors is spreading destructive comments among our most sensitive parents.

We are thinking we may have to drop Latin, and a few other minority subjects are in danger too - the budget is terribly tight. We are also talking through a project to restrict the curriculum slightly for a small group of low-achieving pupils while they do a day or two of work-related experience every week. All this has been fully aired at meetings and no one has questioned it.

This parent thinks the school is "going down-market" and I know she is spreading it around. Should I confront her? We have a programme for the gifted, a fantastic range of extra-mural activities and trips and our options system offers all the choice of academic subjects possible.

YOUR first step is a serious talk with your chair. It is better if the chair has a word with any governor who needs guidance rather than the head.

I am sympathetic but wondering if any aspect of the professional-governor relationship could be strengthened.

You imply the governing body is rather passive. Are you sure there is no reluctance to question what you say in a meeting? A full debate could give you the chance to ask her what she thinks.

Is there plenty of material available to share on the arguments for the regular work-experience? Have your governors decided on a minimum group size for low-demand subjects, and do they know the price of keeping it?

Have you flagged up any topical curriculumorganisation issues in your newsletters to parents?

I have always found that sharing even tentative possibilities reduces rather than feeds destructive gossip, but sometimes only professionals can start the process. Finally, have you explored bidding for all possible sources of funds, for example for gifted pupils?

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House 66-68 East Smithfield London E1W 1BXfax 020 7782

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