21st March 2003 at 00:00
I saw a group of young boys playing near my home at about 4.30pm. They were still in school uniform and I'm sure they hadn't been home. They were cruelly tormenting a lame cat, and their language as I passed them was foul.

As a community governor I was very ashamed and gave them a good telling-off. They were abusive, but when I said I was a governor of their school they went off sheepishly.

I mentioned it to a fellow governor who said I was wrong to tackle them. I thought no more of it, though I did mention it at our next meeting and I was very pleased when the head said he would refer to it in assembly without naming the boys, whom I did not know anyway. He didn't criticise me.

So imagine my amazement when the chair took me aside and said it was inappropriate to do what I did and that school discipline was not a matter for governors. What are we there for? And can the chair tell me off like that?

I think there may be some misunderstanding behind your question. I'm sure you meant well and I often wish we were all braver about confronting wrongdoers.

There was nothing to complain of in my view with your tackling any group of children about anti-social behaviour.

The issue is whether you should have referred to your school governor role.

As for the chair's right to administer a mild rebuke, I do think the chair is the right person to speak to a governor about any inappropriate behaviour in the role. It is not the head's job, and your head obviously realised that.

The governing body's job is to formulate principles governing discipline in the school, but it is the job of the head and staff to make decisions and keep order day by day within the school.

Outside school hours and off its premises, they do rightly emphasise that pupils let the school down by bad behaviour at any time.

But our authority as governors to discipline pupils is non-existent, and that is the issue in your case. If you hadn't "pulled rank" your courage as a passer-by would have done you great credit.

Being a governor is not an easy role and in the long run it's far better if someone puts us right straight away, and we all benefit from clear guidelines.

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