Agenda

21st May 2004 at 01:00
We have just been asked to welcome (if that is the right word) a new local education authority governor whose children are all in private schools. We are all unhappy about where this new colleague is coming from and whether she will be loyal to our school and not compare it all the time with the expensive establishments which her children attend. Can we refuse?

The answer is no, you can't refuse. If you were choosing a community governor - these are co-opted by the rest of the governing body - you would make up your own minds about what line you took on commitment to the public system, but the LEA appoints whom it wishes. In general terms, you can say to your LEA that you would prefer nominees with a proven commitment to their own local schools, but it doesn't have to take any notice.

I feel, as you do, that it would be reassuring to be able to take governors' loyalty for granted. In your case - and many of us have been faced with it - I would hope either that I was mistaken and that the new colleague, innocent until proven otherwise, had a genuine desire not just to contribute but to be in full support, or that he or she would soon come under our good influences. Since you have no option, give her a chance.

Remember that people have varying reasons for personal decisions, including the need to stay in harmony with a partner with different views. Also, some people can contribute their skills and experience wholeheartedly to something worthwhile, regardless of family decisions and without any sense of patronage. Like you, though, I would swap a pound of talent for an ounce of commitment. The best hope is that your new colleague will want the best for your school, but don't compromise if, in any discussion, you are being asked to settle for anything less.

A respected teacher at our school, whose children are pupils here, wants to stand for parent-governor. We are told this isn't possible, but surely that can't be true?

It is. The regulations made under the 2002 Act made it impossible for staff (not just teachers) to serve in any capacity other than elected staff governors. I understand that a governing body with too many members who owe their living to the school is not healthy as it could make it harder to come to some decisions, but feel that parental rights of staff should be paramount. But, on the whole, I support the new principle as it applies to co-opted and especially LEA governors - given that the new rules allow up to a third of governors to be elected staff representatives. Remember this when you come to reconstitute your governing body and decide for yourselves how many members you have and, within the guidelines, the balance of different interests. Also bear in mind what I have said about the need to be free to make decisions without fear. There were parts of the country where this was hard as there were too many employees on the governing body.

A compilation of Joan Sallis's columns has been published in Questions School Governors Ask. Copies are available at pound;7.95 from The TES bookshop: call 0870 4448633 or see www.tes.co.ukbookshop.

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.ukgovernors ask_the_expert where answers to the submitted questions will appear

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