9th July 2004 at 01:00
Answers your questions.

Please can you settle a difference we are having with our head about next term? She says we have to delegate everything to her from September under new regulations, and she details appointments, exclusions, school curriculum and rules, staff discipline and appeals, committees and their membership and all complaints.

The relationship has not been good since her appointment although we have continued some previous very good practice. As chair I think we are a reasonable lot who do not throw our weight about or exceed our proper role, but she has never been reconciled to the fact that we exist at all.

I have not read anything about new measures in September though I visit the governors' website regularly. I certainly will not wish to continue in a rubber-stamping role - I have better things to do with my time.

"And so say all of us" to your last remark. Your head is certainly trying it on and you are right in thinking that there is nothing startlingly new in the pipeline for governors. I can only think she has only just got hold of a rather old document. It does sound like that because September 2003 was an important date for a number of quite serious changes in procedures and powers which have not yet had their full effect.

First of all we are supposed to be restructuring over a lengthy period - to be completed two years from now - which means choosing our own size of governing body between nine and 20, and having some flexibility on membership, although parameters for parent and teacher governors remain generous.

I have always warned against downsizing too hastily because of the related changes in procedures (already in operation for a year), and in particular the scope for increased delegation, which could mean that a governing body might slip into putting decisions in too few hands.

These year-old changes allowed almost all decisions to be delegated to a committee or the head and this may be what yours had in mind, combined with powers to appoint non-governors to committees, a potential dilution.

But remember, powers are for the most part permissive - we do not have to use them if we do not choose to. And I hope most will be cautious. The only changes which did appear to put more constraints on us related to staffing.

Heads saw it as a stronger role in the appointment, discipline and dismissal of staff and there is no doubt that the potential is there.

In particular, there was a statement in the guidance accompanying the regulations that schools would be expected to hand over all appointments to heads early in this school year. Since then, however, the fact that this statement was in the guidance accompanying the regulations and not itself a regulation has sunk in.

I keep on hearing of local education authorities where, after perhaps a brief panicky acceptance of this exclusion, a decision has been taken that guidance is guidance and we do not have to accept it, and governors who had been excluded from interviewing have resumed their old habits. I welcome this because the presence of governors, in a process fraught with dangers, is a protection, not a threat.

As for discipline and dismissal of staff, it has been accepted that schools must have provision for appeals to governors before any decisions are implemented.

The strangest power your head cites is over "all complaints". Schools now are obliged to have a proper complaints procedure, and the norm is that any complaint which has not been dealt with satisfactorily by the school staff should go to governors.

Once more the governing body is the long-stop. So please do not resign.

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 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 where answers to the submitted questions will appear

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