9th October 1998 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Q Can you say if there is anything illegal in candidates canvassing for teacher-governor vacancies? If there is nothing against it in law would you think it a desirable practice? And is it allowed during school hours on school premises?

I am thinking of such things as circulating a note on what the candidate has to offer and how be or she would approach the job, putting a statement on the staff notice-board, or giving an informal talk among colleagues.

A It goes without saying that nothing must be done which encroaches on lesson time or any other aspect of the teacher's duties, but with this proviso I can see no reason why candidates shouldn't give colleagues reasons why they should be elected, and I can't find anything in the law which forbids it. Indeed, my first reaction is that it is a good thing if teacher-governor elections are taken seriously and keenly contested. As for organising such activity in school hours and on school premises, a teacher-governor does, after all, hold an important position in the life of the school and it is the obvious place to contact other stafff.

Candidates must observe obvious rules such as ensuring that what they say is truthful and contains nothing inflammatory or defamatory and that they do not intimidate colleagues or exploit personal relationships.

Q This is not an easy thing to say, but I am unhappy about the pressure our head always puts on us when the annual salary review comes up. It is not exactly intimidating, but there is a strong feeling that if we don't agree an increase it is a vote of censure or at the very least shows a lack of appreciation. We do appreciate our head, who is efficient and hard-working, but our budget is tight and we don't on principle exercise our option to give teachers performance-related pay. I feel we need some special reason.

A You put very clearly an issue which a number of governors have raised with me. Hard as it is, we must be clear and firm about it. It was never intended that headteachers' salaries should rise automatically each year. We exercise discretion in fixing pay on appointment, and often do so above the minimum in the band for our school size to take account of the character of the catchment area, difficulty in filling the post, and so on.

Increases can be given where we have clear guidance in the annual document on pay, but unless there is a reason over and above that the headteacher is doing an effective job it is wrong for him to put you in this situation.

This problem is causing an unspoken resentment among governors in too many schools and it needs expressing.

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