10th September 1999 at 01:00
In theory we have a number of committees. The governing body - before my time - set them up with great enthusiasm and included everything they could think of, but they are moribund. Some have never met and a few meet as and when there's a need, but probably

illegally because we've forgotten who's on which and have no rules. When I go to training I realise how organised other

governors are, but as a newcomer I don't feel that I can question long standing practices.

I don't think you are the only ones, though in the past couple of years I have been amazed how well the great majority have now organised themselves.

I would guess that your headteacher is not very switched on to governors. Some heads have never seen the development of an active governing body as a leadership function. What you describe could not happen if the head thought your work important, and it's likely that all your activity needs overhaul. If your local authority training team offers in-house team-building

sessions I would first suggest that you talk to someone about arranging this at your next training


This term we have new regulations (statutory instrument 1999 no 2163) to work to. They say that governors must review their committee arrangements every year - membership, terms of reference and working rules. You should do this in your first meeting this term. Regulations 47 and 48 say that by law you must have a minimum of two committee: a staff dismissal committee of three (plus a second of no less than three to hear appeals) and a pupil discipline committee of three or five.

As to other committees, the governing body decides. I've never believed in setting them up "just in case", but any school that's working properly needs at least four: for finance, staffing, premises and curriculum, and some schools also have a committee on pupil affairs.

You need to be clear about what each committee is to cover and who has been elected to serve. You also need in advance - that is now - a timetable of meetings so that every committee meets at least once between full governors' meetings, reporting to the latter and preferably culminating in finance. All meetings must be minuted.

You need to be aware on what subjects power may be delegated to committees. This is all spelled out in the regulations

I dread to think how chaotic or what non-events your governing body meetings must be. If committees are well-run and focused, they enable a lot more detailed work and participation to take place, while keeping full meetings brisk and businesslike. There shouldn't be any re-running of the same discussions. This is easier to stop if you have open committees - for instance where any governor can take part on a non-voting basis and all are informed and made welcome - since it gives you a perfect response to anyone who does try to go over old ground.

When you get your new "Guide to the Law," which should be out before Christmas, you will realise what a range of duties central to the conduct of the school governors now have to perform. Discuss with your chair where you are falling short. Answers your questions

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