I am one of a dying species, an LEA governor who is a councillor, a party activist and a member of council committees where matters affecting the school could be decided. I am aware that some of my colleagues on the governing body look askance at me; "party' is a dirty word to some. My council colleagues can be equally suspicious. Sometimes there is conflict between my two duties; confidentiality is another issue. It's a minefield.
Can you help?
Many governors, not only councillors and party activists, will have potential conflicts between their role and the needs of the school.
Businesses, local amenity groups, other public services, other schools, all have interests which could be in conflict with one school's needs, but they are often represented on school governing bodies.
Having said that, there has been a court ruling (the only one, as far as I know) about governors and party membership which clearly stated that governors cannot be removed by the appointing body for not voting in accordance with its policies.
But this does not mean that you will escape difficult choices. You may have to declare an interest and keep out of a debate because you have a role elsewhere that could put your impartiality in question. Or you may occasionally have to refuse to disclose something confidential gained from your role on the council.
But these are exceptional moments in hours of solid, uncontroversial work as a governor, when your contribution will be based on common sense and the interests of the school as you see them. If you play your part to the full, if you find time to help the school in many uncontroversial ways, and if you are honest about the rare cases when your position causes conflict, I'm sure your colleagues will respect you.
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 www.tes.co.uk governorsask_ the_expert where answers to submitted questions will appear