30th July 2004 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers governors' questions

When we last met as a governing body we were told by the head that he had invited two new voting members (not governors) on to our finance and curriculum committees "to provide expert guidance". We do not know anything about them. Is this legal and proper? And would you recommend it?

I am shocked. If you did not, as a governing body, vote authority for this invitation it is certainly not legal and proper. Committees are now allowed to have "associate governors" but only the governing body can vote them on and (if they so wish) allow them votes. It certainly isn't up to the head to decide, and yours must have misunderstood the rules. As to whether I would recommend it, there may be a case for inviting an expert on some aspect of business or some new subject area to assist a committee, or perhaps a student (though they can't vote under 18), or possibly someone from a local service concerned with children and young people. But I confess that when we can (within the next two years) have any size of governing body up to 20, with at least one-third parents and up to one-third staff plus our own choice of co-options, there isn't a great deal to be said for more than occasional use of this power. Full governors are more accountable.

Is it right for the head to call a group of individual governors (chosen by her) together to discuss a particular issue without informing others?

No. It is wrong and you must not let it happen. Committees, whether standing committees or less formal ad hoc groups for a particular purpose, must be elected by the governing body. No other kind of group has any status. The members so selected, if they understand that others have not been invited, should refuse to participate. Even if you delegate a particular decision to the head, it is poor practice for him or her to select a group of governors to consult.

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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