9th May 2003 at 01:00
I am chair of governors. One of our teachers is known to feel very resentful about many aspects of her treatment. She thinks she has an excessive workload, has been given particularly large and difficult groups, and does more than her share of teaching subjects other than those in which she is primarily qualified (they all have to do a certain amount of this as the school is quite small for a comprehensive and our budget over-stretched as never before).

She has asked me to take this personal complaint up with the governing body and given me a paper to copy to all members. I do not feel that this is within our remit. How should I deal with it?

Your staff member is represented on the governing body by two elected governors. It isn't their job to pass on individual concerns automatically, any more than is the case with parent governors. But many staff governors do report routinely to regular governing body meetings about any general concerns of their constituents which have a bearing on the overall well-being of the school and its pupils.

Such matters as workload and its distribution, possible wide differences in the difficulty of particular groups, and the management of second-subject load-sharing might be proper subjects - but as general issues, not personal complaints.

It might be worthwhile to talk to them informally to get some background, but not to suggest that they should take up purely personal workplace issues.

There might be general matters within budget discussions which the governing body should visit or revisit, to ensure that everything possible is being done to deal with staff deployment as effectively as the budget can stand. Do remember, however, that the detail of staff use is a professional responsibility.

The first recourse for purely individual workplace worries is to line management, then possibly the staff member's union.

I often have to give guidance on this to support staff governors, for whom it can be a real problem because of the variety and isolation of some of their constituents and the relative importance of working conditions.

A grievance procedure in which governors would be involved, or possibly a reference under your own complaints procedure, should be used only in extremis. Unless the complaint does raise general issues which you should discuss, or staff representatives wish to broaden it in a report of their own on general deployment problems, I do not think you can consider this as part of your normal business.

If it is presented formally as a grievance, I assume that you have a procedure for separate investigation.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205,

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