23rd July 2004 at 01:00
Our LEA has started to get political in choosing its own representatives on governing bodies. This is a new development and it seems to go back to the bad old days. We've no objection to these people as individuals and, indeed, we ourselves co-opted our local ward councillor because surely there should be someone to speak for how the local community reacts to our school and remind us we are accountable.

But I'm talking about councillors from another town in the county miles away, or even members who are not councillors and have nothing to do with our community. They don't know the area and, so far, have been poor attenders and been unwilling to join committees and so on. Can we refuse them?

Legally, you cannot refuse properly appointed local education authority representatives who, at least, these days are a relatively small proportion of our total governing bodies. In the old days you refer to, all members were appointed by the LEA and it can never be as bad as that again under present law. But there is some evidence of a move towards more narrowly political appointments, which in many areas (not all by any means) had become a thing of the past. This trend is highly undesirable and many people who fought hard to keep party politics out of school government in the 1960s and 1970s will be dismayed to see it.

You can certainly let your LEA know how you feel though, stressing what a busy life it is being a governor these days and how frustrating to have members who are too busy to give the job their proper attention. And you can make your expectations clear when new governors join you, as well as showing clear disapproval of any party politicking. And be strict about legal attendance requirements (governors should be disqualified after six months' unapproved absence).

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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