2nd February 1996 at 00:00
Like many infants schools we share a governing body with the junior school on the same site. Things are getting difficult. The workload for two quite large schools means very long meetings, with many items specific to one school.

We have also found it difficult to deal with delicate matters such as disciplinary cases. The junior school has had a very critical Office for Standards in Education inspection and it has been difficult for all of us to cope with. The junior head has been deeply affected and wants to take early retirement. She clearly finds it intolerable to have their problems discussed by people from another school.

You raise a number of issues. Grouping of two primary schools serving the same area is quite legal and an authority may adopt such arrangements without any special permission. (Grouping beyond this requires the consent of the Secretary of State.)

I would be much happier if the law had provided for every school to have its own governors, for the reasons you give and others, one of which is the difficulty of getting a fair distribution of parent governors (the infants school usually being the sufferer). The increasing workload and particularly the advent of OFSTED inspections do, as you say, make matters worse. There is a cohesion about a governing body serving one school which is difficult to reproduce in a shared one.

The authority has the power to change these arrangements. There is no reason why governors should not press their authority to introduce separate bodies and I have heard of schools which have successfully done so. It is far better, of course, if a number of schools feel the same and act together, and best of all if a local association of governors could take up the issue.

With a shared governing body, there are limits to what you can do to break up the work on school-specific lines. Only the governing body has the legal power to make decisions, and it must be quorate across the whole membership. But there is no reason why preparatory work on issues affecting one of the schools should not be done by a working group from that school. This would be especially suitable for curriculum matters.

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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