2nd May 2003 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

I AM a fairly new governor, not yet with any special role, and I am very concerned that our headteacher is having an affair with one of my fellow governors. In itself I suppose this is none of our business, but the governor concerned is one of the group which will be deciding the head's pay and he is also chair of the finance committee. Surely there is a conflict of interest here?

YOU are right to be concerned about the pay question. Your colleague's involvement is certainly undesirable, neither should he be involved in the head's performance appraisal. The finance committee is not so clear-cut but I would not personally be very happy about that either. It is a key strategic committee whose decisions about the broad outlines of spending should be free from any suspicion of irregularity, and the head is also accountable to governors through the finance committee for keeping spending within the agreed limits.

I am sure those concerned will be especially careful to observe all the proper procedures and not allow their relationship to influence their work, but they also have to consider how things appear to others, the staff, the other governors and, perhaps if there should be a problem, the education authority. It is unfair to expose the school to any harm or even misunderstanding.

The proper person to counsel the governor concerned and the head is the chair, and you should put your concerns to him or her as soon as possible.

It is not an ideal situation for your colleague to be a governor of the school at all, but at the very least I think most people would expect him to keep clear of the obviously critical tasks.

I am not making any moral judgments. The situation would be a cause for concern even if the two people were husband and wife or close relatives.

I AM a parent governor. My son was excluded for one day for fighting. There was no teacher witness and the other child started it. I am concerned that he should not have a bad record on the basis of an injustice and I feel I have lost my right to complain by being a governor. I also worry about what happens if he gets into more trouble and is excluded for a week or more and I shall not even be able to appeal. I would sooner resign than let him down.

YOU have not lost your right to complain. The only thing I would add is that you have to be careful to keep your roles separate if you do and not "pull rank" in any way as that is not fair to teachers. Sometimes I find it is better for a governor to let the other parent deal with family issues relating to school to avoid that danger.

As to further exclusions, if any, you would still have the same right to have the issue reviewed by a panel of governors as any parent, but of course there could be no question of your being on the discipline committee for that hearing. But let us hope it does not happen. It may be a timely caution for your son and do not assume he will be on a disaster course. The surest way to make a lasting impression is to over-react.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 0171 782 32023205, or see where answers to submitted questions will appear

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