26th July 1996 at 01:00
At our last scheduled meeting our governing body voted against asking our head's wife (an adviser with a neighbouring LEA) to do a review of one of our departments which was seriously criticised in our OFSTED report. We wanted to use a consultant, but most of us thought it undesirable to have someone with such a close link with the school.

The head accepted this decision and indeed did not play any part. He seemed to understand our reaction, so I have no reason to think he was implicated in what subsequently happened.

A special meeting of governors was called two weeks later, quite properly, to make some formal decisions which could not wait, one to approve the proposed budget because there had been some unexpected developments, and one connected with our site and buildings contract, and there was nothing else on the agenda.

It was a dreadfully wet night and our meeting was poorly attended but was just quorate. To my surprise the chairman said that he had been asked to raise the matter of the consultant and he hoped we would accept the addition to the agenda. He now spoke strongly in favour of the earlier proposal and so did one of our teacher governors who happened to be second in that faculty, and despite some opposition it was agreed. Do you think this was a wise decision and should we have objected to an addition to the agenda when there were so few people there?

I think your original decision was wise and I also think it would have been better for the teacher governor to keep out of the discussion in the circumstances.

But there is a far more fundamental point which nullifies the decision at the second meeting. Regulation 20 of the Governors' Regulations (SI 1503 of 1989 as amended) says that if the question of rescinding a previous decision is to come up at a governors' meeting it must have been on the agenda: this is clearly intended to prevent important decisions being sprung on governors, as happened - perhaps not intentionally - at your meeting. Legally therefore the decision made at your scheduled meeting stands.

What can you do about a governor with a negative response to every bright idea? We have one who is permanently downbeat. Enthusiasts make suggestions, but this governor, who's been around a long time, always pours cold water on everything by saying we tried that, it didn't work, you'll never solve that, etc, etc. It gets all of us down, but I am especially anxious when thinking about recruitment because any new governor is likely to be squashed flat by this know-all.

Sometimes the best technique is just to ignore it and press on. You can also say, if you can manage a straight face, that if he has had so much experience of things that didn't work, then he must have lots of ideas of his own, so could he make three or four proposals for you to chew over? Or you could say, well maybe it didn't work last time, but things change, so why don't a few of us who are keen become a little task group to explore it? Finally, you could just say "Why are you always so negative?" But whatever you do, don't let this familiar character get you down.

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