17th December 1999 at 00:00
Joan Salis answers your questions.

Q: IN THE summer I was elected non-teaching staff governor in a primary school. You may think it strange that a midday supervisor was elected and not a full-timer or someone more educated, but I go back a long way with the school as a lollipop lady before my children came, and now I have two little ones in the infants. I am well-known locally and I do know that both the teachers and the other staff do respect me.

Anyway I have two problems. One is that the headteacher said I should leave for part of the first meeting because there was a confidential item about staffing, and also, when we set up committees, that I couldn't be on the staffing committee. I wasn't sure that this was in order, but I was very upset when another governor said it was because of the risk of gossip. Also I was told by a council governor that I should only speak on matters concerning the midday staff. If that is the rule I'll do it, but the caretaker wants me to raise an important security matter, and the cleaners also have a grievance.

A: Of course I don't think it strange that you were elected. Anyone employed in the school, full or part-time, is eligible, and it is a long overdue reform to bring in some of the important people who have a different perspective on school life from teaching staff and parents. From the fact that you are already asking such serious questions I'm sure you'll be a good governor.

What you say upsets me, though it isn't the first time I've heard it even in the short time we have had staff

governors. I hope not many get such a poor welcome. You are equal in every respect to any other kind of governor and entitled to take part in all governor duties, including confidential matters, except (and this applies to everybody) where you might personally gain from the decision, or where, because of conflict of interest, you might not be able to be detached about it.

Otherwise they may serve on finance, staffing and pay committees if their fellow governors choose them, and indeed committees should have a balance of interests.

Your other queries concern your job as a representative. You represent all the non-teaching staff, not just midday supervisors, and you should try to get any of their concerns which raise questions of policy on an agenda. The only things I would caution you about are (a) not to get involved in purely personal grievances, and in particular matters which perhaps are more suitable for the person's union or line manager; (b) not to bring up items without warning - they should be on the agenda; and (c) not to raise items which are outside governors' field of responsibility.

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