14th June 1996 at 01:00
Joan sallis answers your questions. We have just appointed a new deputy, and after the job had been offered I found out that the woman appointed is the sister of my `fellow parent governor.

The candidate lived at the other end of the country and doesn't have the same name, and nobody had any idea of the relationship. The governor concerned did say she didn't want to be on the selection panel, which we assumed was just because she was new.

Fortunately, the panel's decision was unanimous and in accord with the advice given by the local authority inspector, so accepted by the full governing body without discussion.

But that governor was a party to the endorsement of the panel's recommendation and I am wondering whether it was legal.

The parent governor or the candidate should certainly have told you of the relationship, and it should in any case be recorded immediately lest decisions involving your newly appointed deputy come to the governors.

I feel sure that this governor meant no harm and was just inexperienced and shy, and may even have thought it better to keep quiet so that the knowledge didn't influence your choice.

I find it rather more surprising that the candidate did not consider it necessary to say anything. Because all decisions of governors must be seen to be above board however, you must be careful for your own protection.

I wouldn't think any harm has been done in this case, as the governor played no active part and the decision wasn't contested.

The business about declaring an interest is so important that I think that, with a couple of other things of overwhelming importance, it should form part of a minimal induction briefing or induction letter for all governors as soon as appointed. Or at the beginning of each year a good chair could gently remind the whole governing body about these fundamentals.

(The other points I should consider of comparable importance would be that power belongs to the governing body not the individual governor, and that governors' operate at a strategic level and not at the level of day-by-day management.)

The Audit Commission has recommended that all governors should maintain a register of members' interests, though it isn't a legal requirement.

I confess when I first read that I didn't myself think it was necessary to be so formal, but it might have avoided the problem you have had.

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