26th March 2004 at 00:00
Joan Sallis asnswers your questions

I am a teacher governor of a comprehensive where the governing body could not have been more supportive - and to outward appearances still is.

However, we have a fairly new co-opted governor, who was warmly welcomed because of some expertise he was able to offer. We had no reason to believe he had any other agenda even though the party he belongs to favours selective education, which they have in a neighbouring education authority.

A friend who teaches in a grammar school in that area says this man is also a governor of her school and married to one of her colleagues. It appears that he is given to criticising our school in a most unpleasant way, making unfair comparisons, saying our teachers are second-rate and our students badly behaved. Is it legalallowabletolerable to have these blatant conflicts of interest? Should he have been open about this when appointed or declared that he was a governor elsewhere? Could he have had bad motives when he applied? Should I inform my head so that she can confront him?

I sympathise very much with you and should be just as fiercely upset about a governor who was damagingly disloyal to the system nearly all of us work in and support. But we have to accept that there are those who have different views, so the real issue is how they behave. I should be interested to know whether your colleague does in fact pull his weight and make a supportive contribution on your governing body.

Although this would not excuse disloyalty over the border - he should in no circumstances disparage your school in a public way - it would at least show that his involvement with you is sincerely well-intentioned and not just a means of collecting ammunition against what it stands for. He may genuinely believe from experience, rather than dogma, that your standards are lower, and we should all be willing to accept that our schools can improve. That is our job. But it still doesn't excuse disloyalty outside.

Further, the governors we co-opt, now rightly called community governors, do represent the school's own community and the systems it supports, not someone else's.

But there is no law against being a governor of more than one school, even across borders. Nor was your colleague obliged to disclose the fact, though I should have been more comfortable about the situation if he had included that information in his application. As to what you do about it, I think any public accusation at this stage might well exacerbate the problem. You should talk to your chair about it and suggest he might privately explore this governor's opinions of your school and the comprehensive principle generally, and - if it seems wise at the time - hint that he knows your colleague tends to be critical of it in other places. It is the chair's job, not the head's, to deal with any unacceptable behaviour by governors.

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 governorsask_ the_expert

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