Agenda

20th June 2003 at 01:00
Answers your questions

WE have had to make difficult decisions due to shortage of money. I know most schools have suffered this year, but the worst thing was having to reorganise class groupings to avoid increasing staffing costs. We have a bulge at entry age, and the class-size limit means staggering entry and redistributing numbers in September. We have spread out the surplus effectively and none of our classes is over 30, but some children will not be in the same classes.

One of our parent governors could not accept this change and voted against, and has become the unofficial leader of parent protest. He has letters in the local paper, chairs meetings of parents, and feels sincerely he must support what the majority of parents feel.

One of our teachers who lives locally is also against this move, which gives her a slightly larger class than before, and is being very vocal in the neighbourhood. I can understand their point of view, but nobody has a solution and we all hated taking this decision.

MANY schools are having to make hard choices, ours included, but I know that in primary schools the thing parents - and children - hate most is having to join a new class. It requires a lot of prior explanation and patience, and I hope that even before the decision was made, and certainly immediately after, your head and governors communicated well about the problem and the lack of a better solution. Even now I hope you are responding to parents' very understandable feelings and providing opportunities for them to air their objections.

Having said that, I do not condone the actions of either your parent colleague or the teacher. Although I know how hard it is to defend decisions which you would prefer not to have had forced upon you, I also believe that the worst thing a governor can do is break ranks. A governing body takes decisions together, and individuals should be bound by corporate loyalty, especially in a case where a decision has been inescapable and others have had to swallow their feelings too.

You can vote against, ask for your vote to be recorded or even resign, but to use your position to support protests in the community is not acceptable. And parent governors are representatives, not delegates.

Your chair is the right person to counsel the parent governor. The teacher is a matter for the head in her management role, unless it became a disciplinary matter (which I don't suggest), in which case governors would be involved.

I hope very much that the school can present a united front, governors and staff, and do everything possible to explain the problem to parents and calm them - you still have time on your side. I assume that you have looked at projected numbers and are satisfied that the problem can be contained by this move as the big intake moves through? It would not be easy to have to repeat it.

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