21st May 1999 at 01:00
I have a good relationship with my head and, as chair of governors, I like to think he can turn to me for support and guidance on an informal basis. Quite often this relates to delicate matters, particularly exclusions and staff misdemeanours. Of course when we need a formal panel to hear an appeal I select the appropriate number of other governors to serve.

I used to chair these panels until a fellow governor told me it was not proper for me to do so if I had already been consulted. I thought this was making a meal of an everyday duty, but to keep the peace I said I would not chair any appeals in future. Now, however, the same person is saying I shouldn't have anything to do with the choice of panel members either. Surely this is absurd. It's hard enough getting good people who are also free to come at a moment's notice as it is, and I always try to be fair and even-handed.

I am sure you do, but I'm afraid a degree of formality is essential when hearing representations against a permanent exclusion or an appeal in a staff discipline case, and the school could get into serious difficulties if a person who had had any previous involvement in the case were to hear an appeal or if the governing body had not actually delegated its power appropriately.

The governing body must decide how it wishes to deal with all such matters. Normally it will delegate staff discipline to a committee, which has to be formally elected, and that committee, using delegated power from the whole governing body, will usually set up first and second committees of at least three members to deal with any disciplinary cases which arise, making sure that the appeal or second committee remains clear of any involvement in the issues being judged.

If the chair has considered those issues with the head at an earlier stage, however informally, she should not serve. The important thing is that the governing body consciously delegates its power and that those elected exercise that power in a safe and responsible way. Decisions made improperly put the school at risk either in court or an industrial tribunal.

The same principles apply to the consideration of representations against exclusion. Again, the governors must delegate their power consciously and formally and observe the same rules about prior involvement in the incidents leading up to the exclusion.

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