5th January 1996 at 00:00
Joan Sallis answers governors' questions.

A pupil has been the victim of bullying, and the parents considered the matter badly handled. The chair forbade governors to talk to the parents who tried to raise it at the annual meeting of governors with parents and were shouted down by the chair who refused to take the question. Is this acceptable practice? The parents have now removed their child.

Normally the handling of disciplinary incidents in the school is a matter for the headteacher, and would not involve the governors unless it breached behaviour guidelines, involved a disputed exclusion of another pupil, or was the subject of a complaint through formal procedures which the school had adopted.

On the other hand, governors should be concerned that such incidents are dealt with in a fair and consistent way and that bullying in particular is taken very seriously. .

I do not like to hear of parents being shouted down. At the same time, the annual meeting is for discussing school policies, not for bringing up matters involving individual children.

All formalities aside, however, it seems that a friendly meeting between the head and the parents, perhaps involving governors experienced at dealing with discipline issues, would have saved a lot of hard feelings.

We have two governors who are teachers at other schools. One of their names was put forward as a possible chair. Some colleagues thought a teacher unsuitable. Is this a generally held view?

No paid employees of any sort may be chair or vice-chair on the governing body of their own school. The reason behind this, I have always assumed, is that they would often have a declarable interest in matters under discussion so could not carry out all the duties of chair. This does not apply to teachers from other schools.

I see a practical difficulty: in many cases teachers who are governors cannot easily get time off during the day. Many tasks involve daytime visits, and certainly he or she needs to be available to talk things over with the head now and then. Time off with supply cover has financial implications for the individual school, and you would be wise to ask if there are likely to be problems where these teachers work. There may also be clashes of dates over, for example, Christmas concerts and prize days.

Otherwise it is entirely up to your governors to decide whether the individuals have the personal qualities they are looking for. They would not even consider it, I am sure, if these teachers took a narrowly professional point of view and did not respect the perspective of people outside education sufficiently, or if they did not think them capable of objectivity when dealing with teacher concerns coming before governors.

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