9th January 2004 at 00:00
JOAN SALLIS answers governors' questions

On the parent-teacher association committee we feel strongly about children having enough textbooks, as our parent governors well know. We raise lots of money for books. However, the parent governors don't always heed our views when recommending budget priorities. The governing body has postponed replacing shabby and insufficient book sets in several subjects saying that proposed curriculum changes will require a big investment in these subjects in a few years' time. Our children have only one chance and will have left by then. Nor do we agree with their priorities for capital spending on a new information technology suite when the toilets are disgusting. At our meetings with them our recommendations are not always followed. Can parent governors be replaced for not being representative?

There is no means of replacing elected parent governors before the end of their term of office. They have been elected by what we hope is a representative cross-section of parents, though it could well be that the PTA support draws on a somewhat different cross-section. The PTA may have very different priorities and opinions from the governing body. For instance, the PTA may well draw its strength from its work to make good obvious deficiencies in the school here and now, while the governing body may have to take a longer view, looking at the needs of children still to come.

As you are a parent-teacher association the influence of your teacher members may also be strong, but remember there are also elected teachers on the governing body to represent the staff view. When it comes to the budget, while governors may well take account of your views, they have many conflicting pressures and have an overall strategic responsibility.

It is important to remember that governors representing particular interests are not delegates - they should always listen and heed what their constituents say and pass on their views. However, as governors they have in the final decision an over-riding duty to consider the long-term interests of the school, even if this sometimes conflicts with their sectional view.

My advice to you is to keep the dialogue going as effectively as you can, always. It is vitally important that the different interest groups which make up a school should communicate well and respect each others' priorities, even if they don't always agree. I would recommend that parent governors always attend PTA meetings and that a different representative governor also be present at these meetings wherever possible.

TES welcomes your queries. Joan Sallis does her best to answer all letters, but please keep requests for private replies to a minimum, since we aim to provide helpful information for ALL readers and always protect the identity of schools and individuals. 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 governorsask_ the_expert

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