Agenda

6th September 1996 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions.

Q. I am a foundation governor of an aided school but appointed as a parents' representative. I have upset a lot of people and a formal request for my dismissal, signed by the whole governing body, has been made. They say that I have challenged the governing body on many procedural matters to the point of obstructing their work, prejudiced parents against policies approved by the governing body, incited those parents to complain, made issues of matters affecting my own children in the school and generally been disruptive. My answer is that nobody cares about keeping to the rules and the governing body keeps parents in the dark and acts high-handedly.Can I be removed? What do you think about cases like mine? Should I stand my ground?

A. It is extremely difficult, near impossible, to get rid of individual governors legally unless they have technically disqualified themselves. An elected parent or teacher governor I would say quite impossible, because there is no mechanism for doing it.

As a parent in an aided school appointed by the foundation you could in theory be replaced, but it is hazardous especially if parents think you are on their side. There are several court cases involving attempted dismissal of appointed govenors both in county and church schools, and the courts have upheld the individuals except in cases where LEA governors have ceased to be representative following a change of ruling party.

As to the rights and wrongs of the matter, I don't think your experience is that uncommon. Often there is just one person who will challenge accepted ways of doing things, breaches of the spirit of the rules, secrecy and authoritarianism and who gets a rough time. Nor do I always assume that an isolated and persecuted governor is necessarily in the wrong.

If you have carried your battles outside the governing body by failing to support its decisions you are in the wrong. If you have been excessively preoccupied with the effect of decisions on your own children and constantly bring them into the argument you are not wrong in the same sense but you are asking for trouble. Neither of these actions is going to give you the moral advantage you need to fight against undemocratic ways of working, and I hear of enough schools of all types where these things go on to be disposed to believe what you say about this. Only you can decide whether you are the kind of person to carry on this fight without getting totally demoralised. You might feel that you can do better by resigning and working with your fellow parents outside the governing body.

One of the troubles is that there is no effective mechanism for intervention where governors and head are at loggerheads or where governors are in serious conflict with each other but maybe there is someone either in your LEA or diocesan board who can come to your aid. The only other thing I can suggest is that you ask your governors' training team for an in-house team-training session. This is often helpful in exposing breaches of rules and abuses of power and in giving more governors the courage to deal with these things themselves.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171 782 3200.e-mail: letters@tes1.demon.co.uk

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