2nd October 1998 at 01:00
Joan Sallis Answers your questions

Q Our junior school and the neighbouring infants' school share a governing body. We don't really like the arrangement much, but mostly we have made it work. Now, however, there are a lot of problems because our school has had rather a poor report from the Office for Standards in Education, not in the "special measures" category but with some fairly strong criticism of the lack of clear direction of policy, little involvement of governors in strategic decisions and too much teaching below standard. The infants' school, two years ago, had quite a good report and I'm afraid the reason lies in the very different quality of the two heads.

We are coping, but discussion of delicate matters on the governing body is not easy, and is made more difficult because a parent-governor from the infants' is making a meal of it, wanting the unsatisfactory teachers named, and gossiping about it outside. Can we exclude her or any of the infant governors from the private items concerning our school?

A It is because of such delicate problems and the large amount of school-specific work on budgets, staffing, development plans, etc. that I have always been against shared governing bodies, and you will be glad to hear that they are to come to an end when the new School Standards and Framework Act is fully operative.

Meanwhile, I'm afraid I don't think you can exclude your infants' school colleague or any other member of the joint board from particular items. You are all equal members of one legal governing body for both schools, and you are all responsible for responding to the report on the junior school. You can only exclude a colleague who stands to gain personally from a decision.

The infants' school parent-governor is naturally concerned that her child and others whom she represents will be going up to the juniors soon, so she wants action to be taken quickly. The fact that the junior school exhibits poor governance and has more weak teachers must owe something to the quality of the junior head and the inability of the governors to stand up to her. You have to think what you can do about this.

Someone, probably your chair, also has to tell the infant school parent and anybody else who is making things difficult that you are corporately responsible and this means corporately loyal.

There must be no destructive gossip (though remember that the report is a public document and the junior parents must be careful not to seem to be engaged in a cover-up, either).

If you don't tackle the report loyally and honestly as a body, the children of both schools will suffer.

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