12th January 1996 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions. Do co-opted governors have the same voting rights as other governors? Can they nominate persons for co-option and can they vote in the election of co-opted governors?

In general co-opted governors have full rights. The one exception, in county and voluntary schools, is the one you mention. They may not vote in decisions about new co-optees although they can do so in grant-maintained schools.

I would personally interpret the spirit of the law as excluding co-optees from playing any part in the co-option process in local education authority-maintained schools.

I would take a poor view of their suggesting names or taking part in the discussion, since if you haven't a vote I don't think you should try to influence those who do.

Perhaps in a case where a school is scratching round for volunteers and nobody has any ideas, one should stretch a point on asking existing co-optees privately for suggestions, but even then if there is any sort of contest I think they should keep quiet at the actual meeting.

I expect you know that you need a two-thirds quorum for co-option, but in this case (and this is different from the way the ordinary one-third quorum is calculated) the figure is arrived at by excluding vacant places and excluding those ineligible to vote.

So if you had only 14 governors in post out of a body of 16, and four of those were co-opted, your quorum would be two-thirds of the remainder, rounded up to a whole number that is, seven.

A normal decision requiring a one-third quorum would in this case give you six, so the method of calculation makes a big difference.

Can a head who has chosen not to be governor give us a very strong steer as to how we should vote in a controversial matter? Most of us where of another opinion, but it is very embarrassing to disagree with the head.

This is having your cake and eating it! No corporate responsibility, but a strong influence in matters where there is clearly more than one point of view, The law is not specific on the point, but I would say that a non-governor, who has no vote, should be very careful not to influence those who do have votes when the issue is controversial. Strictly speaking, in these circumstances, the head is there as the governors' professional adviser, and should confine guidance to matters of fact and professional practice, possibly presenting the various options in an objective way if the subject lends itself.

Heads should think carefully about this when they make their decision about being a governor. I have encountered instances where they have decided against becoming governors without taking this on board,and quite a lot where they have come governors without fully accepting the corporate responsibility.

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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