1st July 2005 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions.

Last year, the primary school governing body of which I am the chairman voted on my recommendation to suspend a parent-governor for bringing the body into disrepute. She responded to questions at a PTA meeting about a decision (which somehow got out) to introduce setting by ability in the next school year. The decision would result in moving pupils from their friends but was taken in the interests of better results. When asked, the woman in question explained from her previous knowledge the reasons why it had been introduced. My problem is that I can't find anything about extending a suspension. Hers will end before our next meeting. As you can imagine, I really don't want her back.

No, I can't imagine. You and the head seem to have produced a very closed governing body, and I am confirmed in my view that the Government's introduction of a year's suspension option was a big mistake, especially in its application to elected representatives - even if confined as it should be to cases of gross disloyalty and similarly damaging actions.

Your question shows how hard a governing body that uses it will find the matter of welcoming back a suspended colleague. (I can confirm that there is no provision for extension.) Governors must be careful about what and how they pass on details gained from their role, but the law never intended that everything discussed by governors should be confidential. If you didn't classify the item about the introduction of setting, members of the public could come in and see it in the minutes.

You do not imply that your parent-governor was responsible for parents picking up the issue, and she seems to have done her best in the circumstances. Parent-governors, especially the most conscientious, often have difficult issues to manage and we should help them as much as possible.

The subject of how pupils are assigned to classes is always a hot one, and change upsets parents - more so in a primaries, where separation of whole classes by ability is unusual, except perhaps in some of the areas that still have the 11-plus. It is common to help small groups in the class or sort pupils by tables for reading and maths, and parents usually accept this. I hope the change will be thoroughly discussed with parents before the term ends. Indeed, it would have spared your parent-governor a difficult evening if it had been open for discussion before that.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX; fax 0171 782 32023205, or see governorsask_ the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear

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