Agenda

20th June 1997 at 01:00
Q

If I am happy to be "disqualified" from the panel of governors which makes the decision in a permanent exclusion case, is it proper for me to accompany and support the parents as a friend when they appear to make representations? I know them well and happen to think the school has dealt harshly with the child.

A

Do try to get someone else to help the parents if you can. I don't think there is anything in the law which specifically disallows what you want to do, but I really don't think it is desirable. Concerned as I am about ensuring a fair hearing for the child when the parents either don't support at all or lack the confidence to do it effectively, I don't feel that it is desirable for a governor to back them formally in their representations.

The decision that a small group will make is made on behalf of all, and your appearance may be seen to compromise that corporate responsibility, could confuse parents in the school, and may spark off conflict. Would it not be better to express your opinions as a panel member and perhaps influence the outcome directly?

In our school, we try in every way to represent a friendly governors' face to the parents. We invite them to talk the issues through with one governor who is not on the panel so that they understand their rights and are encouraged to exercise them. Another governor, outside the panel, attends the school case conference before a decision is made, to ensure that the school proceeds properly and sympathetically. That is as far as I think we can properly go within present structures.

I say "within present structures" because I am becoming increasingly concerned about cases where the parents don't make representations at all. It can be extremely hard to be sure that the governors' panel is giving proper exposure to the child's case in these circumstances. I know that some schools encourage the panel to interview the child and witnesses, while other heads and teachers would be horrified by the very idea. One possible way forward might be for a parent, perhaps a parent governor, to be a sort of counsel for the defence. I am really flying a kite here, and should very much welcome readers' ideas and experiences.

Q

As a deputy head of a county comprehensive with responsibility for the curriculum, I provide the main professional input into our curriculum working party. They wanted to elect me to the chair but the chairman of our governors said I was not eligible. Is this correct?

A

No. If it were a committee with delegated power the chairman would be correct as you are an employee of the school. But curriculum decisions cannot be delegated, so strictly speaking a group concerned with curriculum can only be a working party, not a committee. The members may therefore elect you if they wish - assuming, of course, that your governing body has agreed that groups should select their own chairs. If the arrangement is that the governing body appoints all chairs, they should discuss it and, if necessary, vote. Then your chairman's influence might be powerful. In that case it might help to have this written confirmation that it is legal. Whether it is desirable is another matter. I sometimes feel that an expert making a major input can have a stronger position if not chairing the meeting.

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