Agenda;Briefing;Governors

22nd May 1998 at 01:00
Joan Sallis answers your questions

Q

We heard representations from a pupil's guardian about a three-day exclusion. The girl had been misbehaving during a textile design lesson by leaving her seat to tease another girl.

She had a pair of scissors in her hand and she slightly scratched the other's arm. The teacher maintained that it was deliberate, because the girls had earlier quarrelled over a boyfriend. The guardian wanted the incident wiped off the record because, she said, the pupil had not meant to cause injury. What can governors do?

A

You obviously can't wipe out the punishment or for that matter the bare facts of what happened, since they are not in dispute. You might have ruled that the punishment was in your view unwarranted, and your judgment would be recorded on the girl's file.

However, I can't believe that any governors would consider a three-day exclusion unreasonable for fooling around in a practical lesson and disobeying rules designed to ensure safety. As to motivation, if there had been proof of intention to injure I think greater severity would have been justified.

If you consider there is insufficient evidence to indicate malice you should say so in the letters to the head and the parents. These will remain on the child's file, which may satisfy her guardian. But you should make it clear that you are upholding the punishment itself as appropriate to dangerous disobedience.

Q

As a long-time local council governor I am concerned about how education authority support for schools has been undermined and I wonder if you think the current Bill will improve matters.

A

I don't think many heads or governors would wish to return to the time before local management when their power to plan for their school was so limited.

I think the School Framework and Standards Bill will restore strategic power to local education authorities, however. The demise of the Funding Agency for Schools will allow them to plan for their area. They will have representation on the governing bodies of former grant-maintained schools.

Local planning as an activity which was declining will again become important in education action zones, and in the process of drawing up admission rules. LEAs' rights to intervene in schools causing concern have been made very explicit: they, like the Secretary of State will be able to appoint additional governors and even remove powers.

Aside from the legislation, I notice that in less explicit ways the acceptance of outside intervention as a support and not just as a means of identifying failure has become respectable again: it was a strong theme in the White Paper.

On the other side, the Bill quietly abolishes local Articles of Government as a regulator of governing bodies' power, in favour of direct legislation and statutory instruments. This may mean less local variety in the detail of working-together rules.

Also the LEA power to reinstate excluded pupils has disappeared after an appeal to the governors the next stage is an independent tribunal.

None of this is law yet, of course.

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