16th April 1999 at 01:00

Answers your questions

One of our governors works for a firm of accountants and the head thinks he should audit our school fund accounts. I said that was not proper and was made to feel as though I was doubting this colleague's trustworthiness, which is absurd as he is the PTA treasurer and I work closely with him. It's just that our school fund accounts haven't been altogether transparent in the past and I have pressed hard to get them to a state where they raise no awkward questions. I feel now that we should build on these reforms and be beyond reproach.

Any governor familiar with the bad old habits associated with unofficial school funds will sympathise, and I am sure you know that the Audit Commission has said that such funds should be treated as formally as the school budget. I do think it is wrong for a governor to do the audit because governors are, after all, part of the body whose stewardship is being checked.

Don't you have a parent who might be able to do it?

As a practising Christian, I am very concerned about this school's attitude to the law on daily worship. Nobody really seems bothered though we are repeatedly told by inspectors that we are not complying. We make the excuse of not having a room big enough for the whole school, yet we do have a big sports hall. Every year group has one assembly a week, and often it has no spiritual content at all, but is full of injunctions about litter and behaviour, or even things like bringing money for trips and course work. It just makes a mockery of the daily reminders of our Christian heritage and beliefs required by law.

You are not alone in your views and I know that in many schools what happens bears no relation to the words or intentions of the law. Schools do have real problems, such as not having a hall to take the whole school or not enough teachers willing to lead religious observances. This is quite apart from the mixture of faiths.

The School Standards and Framework Act of 1998, while repeating the requirements to have a daily act of worship for each pupil does not allow for separate assemblies for different year groups. This will remove the reason schools have traditionally given for non-compliance, so may perhaps make it easier for other requirements of the law to be imposed more energetically. The relevant parts of the new Act are Section 70 and Schedule 20.

I see no reason why assemblies should not encompass behaviour issues or "housekeeping" matters, though I agree that the law intends them to be of a spiritual nature. Why not ask for the new requirements on worship to be on your governors' agenda so you can discuss them?

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