Our headteacher has made no secret of the fact that he thinks governors are a waste of time, but at least when I first joined he used to attend our meetings. Now he hasn't even been to a meeting since the end of 2002.
We never did have involvement in staff appointments, even before the guidance on delegation, but we have taken part in appeals against exclusion. Nothing else has come up which makes his absence all the more conspicuous, frankly.
We get some good reports from staff on school performance, curriculum developments and so on, and our bursar keeps us on track with budget matters. The head has a beer with our chair sometimes and I suppose they talk over anything important, but I wonder what would happen if we had a crisis.
I'm glad you haven't asked me whether a head who is a governor is subject to the rules on disqualification for non-attendance because I'm not sure I know! However, those rules clearly specify governors and since the penalty for non-attendance is ceasing to be governor it scarcely constitutes a threat when it's a head like yours! A non-governor head may still attend any meetings and I have to say it's normally expected, but I can't find any requirement to attend. Clearly, however, there is an obligation to recognise you and take account of any important decisions you make. It's hard to imagine how, with a head who doesn't go to meetings, the governing body can be getting strategic information and doing its job of setting policies for the school, watching its standards and settling any serious disputes. There is a slight indication that your chair may be accepting the position passively. The absence of any anxiety about this on your chair's part is the really worrying aspect. Your school is bound to suffer at some stage from the lack of robust discussion.
Another threat is the Office for Standards in Education. Your school cannot have been inspected since 2002 but it will come, and under present guidance, inspectors are more than ever concerned about the relationship between head and governors.
I think your education authority ought to speak to your head about this.
Talk to the LEA representatives among your colleagues and your attached inspector, if any. Make the point that, while perhaps you have not in the past 15 months or so suffered directly, there are bound to be occasions when the lack of common ground between governors and head will affect some important decision. It isn't natural for a school to live without challenge, and its absence could be damaging.
Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear