7th June 1996 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions. I suppose I am luckier than most teacher governors in that I am encouraged to play a full part. I am on the pay committee, have been on a selection panel for a head, and chair a curriculum working party. Now a close friend on the staff is in trouble after a serious physical assault on a pupil. I agree this cannot be allowed to go unnoticed but I know the stress this teacher has been under in her personal life and that her action was totally out of character. Am I entitled to refuse to sit on a disciplinary panel?

I have always stressed that any governor can refuse a task if there is good reason. I am sure that everyone would understand your feelings, and not expect you to take part. You should, of course, make it clear that you are declining because it is painful, though you agree that such a misdemeanour calls for action. I am sure the disciplinary committee will take full account of your colleague's good record so far, her personal problems and the state of her health.

As a teacher governor I do my best to tell the staff what's going on inside the governing body - and to make it interesting. I confess I'm a bit of a performer and I try to give them a flavour of the meeting and the interplay of personalities.

Both the chairman and the head are serious people and often get ragged by other governors, some of whom in this one-time mining town are real characters who can sometimes be funny, intentionally as well as unintentionally. The staff enjoy my accounts of meetings and I'm sure it makes them remember the issues better.

Last week the head gave me a roasting and said I must only give a formal report of the decisions with the main arguments, and that if I went too far he'd get me voted off. Surely he can't stop me reporting in my own way?

I'm sorry to be a spoilsport, but on this occasion I must agree with your head. He can't get you voted off, but a poor relationship between you is bad for the school whereas a good one can bring positive benefits.

He isn't saying everything is confidential or trying to prevent you reporting back, but merely suggesting you keep your dramatic talents for other purposes.

You can't go wrong if you simply report the decisions and, if appropriate, the main issues raised, without going into personality clashes or relating any spicy bits.

I always counsel teacher (and parent) governors to confine themselves to impersonal reporting, not even revealing what sides people took or how they voted. You risk breaching the unity of the governing body and the loyalty every member should show to corporate decisions. I should apologise and say you had no intention of offending.

* Joan Sallis has just written a short booklet called Teacher Governors: Your Own Guide for Northamptonshire Governor Services. Telephone 01604 410236 for details.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to Agenda, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1 9XY. Fax: 0171-782 3200.


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