30th July 1999 at 01:00
A local meeting of my union expressed much concern about the new provisions recently circulated in draft regulations for governors, which seem to disadvantage teacher governors more than other groups. It is hard enough for teacher governors to contribute at the best of times. To keep them off pay committees and encourage other governors to claim teacher colleagues could not be impartial on certain issues surely opens the door to even more two-tiered governing bodies. How can we respond?

I have already objected strongly to the DFEE on the suggestion that governors employed by the school (not only teachers) should be barred from certain committees, as has your union. As for the rewording of the clause on declaration of interest, the new definition is clearer for governors in general (stressing conflict of interest and circumstances that make impartialilty difficult). But it may, as your union has suggested, ease the path of people who already want to restrict teachers' roles. I am always condemning such attempts to make teachers second-class governors, and very much liked the phrase in the previous regulations, about teachers who had "an interest greater than the generality of teachers". That was clear and useful.

Let's be optimistic, the regulations are not out yet. Many who think as we do will have commented, and the recent Select Committee report has called for no change in the provisions affecting teacher governors. And the clause on declaration of interest is not, I believe, intended to disadvantage teachers. Let's hope governors will interpret it even-handedly. We all have a duty of vigilance and should protect those who need protecting. We should especially look after the principles of corporate responsibility and equality of individual contribution.

Teacher governors themselves, and those they represent, must not be timid in protecting their interests. Only this week, I received a query about a school with totally unacceptable promotion procedures. It flouted all equal opportunities principles, and based its procedures on nothing but headteacher patronage. When I asked why the teacher governors had accepted the situation, I was told that it had been made clear to them on appointment that "speaking out would not advance their careers". These are cases where the staff as a whole and the governing body as a whole must speak out for those understandably afraid to do so for themselves.

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