28th March 2003 at 00:00
I represent the non-teaching staff on the governing body. I manage the general office and am quite involved with the headteacher, and fancy she is somewhat uneasy with my being a governor.

We have always had a governor in for interviewing candidates for teaching posts, and very often at short notice it is hard to get one in working hours. Under the old headteacher I used to step in if ever we were stuck.

Our new head does not allow this because I have no teaching experience. She also says I must not talk to the junior staff about what goes on at governors' meetings or bring problems from people like grounds and kitchen staff. Funnily enough she is quite happy for me to fill a gap on a permanent exclusion appeal. I would welcome guidance.

Funnily enough, the only duty I have doubts about among those you listed is the one your head is happy about!

I have a great deal of evidence that some heads are uneasy about support staff governors. Perhaps they are bothered about the possibility of someone much less committed to the school and involved in its intimate affairs than you are knowing too much about its problems.

Even that is absurd because apart from classified items, anyone can legally come in from the street and see governors' documents.

I see no objection at all to your participating in teacher appointments - indeed I am sure your experience of the school equips you especially well.

After all, most parent, local education authority, foundation and co-opted governors are not teachers either.

I am more concerned about appeals against exclusion because you will know a great deal about the pupils concerned and hear a lot of teacher talk and, like the head, have understandably strong motives for getting any familiar disrupters out. However, even here I can find nothing to forbid it other than the general phrase about circumstances which "cast doubt on your ability to be impartial".

Your relationship with other non-teaching staff is no different from a parent governor's with parents or a teacher's with teaching staff. You are their representative (not delegate) and should always be watchful for any issues that come up which may affect them or interest them.

It is in fact your duty to watch their interests in any general matters that come before governors, keep them informed and consult if necessary and take opinions back, though always remembering that the education of the children is the aim of it all.

Sometimes support staff working outside the main school community do tend to bring up problems affecting their working lives such as rotas, duties and relations with supervisors, which are not appropriate to normal governors' business and should be taken up with their line manager, union or in the last resort through a grievance procedure.

I am sure you will be a great asset with your knowledge of all aspects of school management.

I am a midday helper and have been asked if I would like to stand as a parent governor - I have three children here. I am very keen but wonder if it is the proper thing to do and whether there would be conflicts of interest.

No more conflicts than both staff and parent governors face often. At present you are eligible to stand and I am sure your knowledge of the school from a fresh angle will be valuable. But when governing bodies are reconstituted under the new Act - some time in the next three years - staff may be barred from standing as parent governors.

These proposals will be laid before Parliament in March but change will be gradual, and it is possible that part-timers will be exempt from it anyway.

Good luck.

Please keep requests for private replies to a minimum. Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205, or see:

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