Agenda

15th August 2003 at 01:00
As an experienced teacher governor, I real-ise the importance of having the staff viewpoint well represented and, while I am lucky, I know some heads don't encourage this. Is it their influence which produced the new regulation that teachers cannot be co-opted, parent or local education authority governors?

The restriction you are talking of applies only to the school where the staff concerned work; and only when governors have completed the revision of their constitution, which is not mandatory until 2006. It also affects all staff, not just teachers.

And you can't blame heads for these changes - there is already a ban of some years' standing on staff becoming co-opted governors. I have mixed feelings about this, though I am with you in wanting a strong staff voice, and against restricting membership as parent or co-opted governors - questions of balance should be left to those voting.

The pressure as far as I am concerned has been from all sorts of governors in a few areas where governorship is still political. In places where it has been common for the LEA to appoint staff (particularly support staff) to their seats, there have been fears (and some evidence) that the governing body can't make important decisions because too many members owe their livelihood to the school. This may apply particularly to support staff because they include more people who need work near home or near their children's school.

This has been a problem. But remember that under the new rules, governors will be able to include up to one-third staff governors, which is generous in bigger governing bodies (see below).

I apologise for the misleading third paragraph in my answer of July 18. I quoted one-fifth as the new proportion for teacher governors instead of one-third. The minimum required is two, including the head, and in some schools there may be pressure to stick to the minimum - absurdly inadequate in bigger schools. I also deplore the fact that representation of support staff will not be universally required.

The rest of the answer remains valid, especially the plea for care in choosing, where there is choice, the size and balance of the new body, and selecting wisely among those of the new procedures which are not mandatory.

I would emphasise, for the questioner above and all governors, the need to think how these new proposals interact, and avoid making hasty changes that could adversely affect the balance and democratic working of the governing body. They are all inter-related and the result could be either a recipe for domination by minorities or a governing body as open, fair and rich in checks and balances as the best ones today, without reducing its long-term efficiency. I say "long-term" because being more "streamlined" has short-term attractions but may have a high price tag.

The TES welcomes your queries. Joan Sallis does her best to answer all letters, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum, as we aim to provide helpful information for all readers and always protect the identity of schools and individuals. Questions should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX; fax: 020 7782 3202 3205, or www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert

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