10th December 2004 at 00:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

I am a parent governor of a secondary school. I have just been through an experience every parent dreads - my son permanently excluded from the school after an unsuccessful appeal to a panel of my colleagues. I have no problem with that, they did what they had to do and in the same circumstances I could not have acted differently. It was clearly an offence meriting such a decision within a clear policy which I accept.

I feel great sympathy with them, in fact, because I know they were upset to be the ones who drew the short straw. But it is still just awful. I do not know whether I am expected to resign. What if I had to be on an appeal myself? Should I seem like a hypocrite? Is there any guidance? Am I making people feel uncomfortable by staying? Can I still count on respect from my colleagues? Now I just want to bury my head, but already part of me wants to carry on working for the school where everyone has been wonderful throughout this experience. Some day perhaps I could help someone else come to terms with a similar trauma.

"There but for the grace of God" will be on the lips of many parents who read this and quite a few will have been through something similar. They will know you have told your son that you love him and that you understand that it is not easy growing up. They will also know the pain you feel.

I think this will make you an even better governor if you are strong enough to let it, and from what you say at the end I think you are already nearly there. There is no expectation that you will resign. Many would but I do not think you are one of them. You know how the experience will sharpen your sympathies and your resolution, and if I were a colleague I would greatly admire you for staying on. I believe your head and colleagues will do so too.

In so many cases this sort of experience has probably saved a young person from much worse. A typical case these days is a pupil who has been caught in amateur drug dealing. Yet the school must say dealing means out, and this may mean parents have no further trouble.

Try to see things in this perspective. If you stay on as a governor you may be able to help someone else to do just that.

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

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