Is breaking the law good practice for schools?

21st September 2001 at 01:00
A SCHOOL lauded as an example of good practice in the Government's education White Paper has been breaking the law by paying its vice-chair of governors to cover for absent teachers.

Government officials were unable to comment on how they missed the breach of statutory regulations drawn up by their colleagues only two years ago.

The White Paper (page 58) highlights the use of cover supervisors at Davison high school for girls in Worthing, Sussex. A team of people "used to being in positions of authority" are paid to cover classes during teacher absence and staff training. The initiative has reduced the use of supply teachers and minimised disruption to pupil learning, claims the school.

However, the team included the vice-chair of the school's governing body. And the Education (School Government) (England) Regulations 1999 (part V, paragraph 29) quite clearly state that "the chairman or vice-chairman shall cease to hold office if... he is employed to work at the school in question".

The regulations were worded to reduce the possibility of a conflict of interest between an individual's finances and their obligations to the governing body.

Margaret Hayden, the vice-chair, has now stood down as a cover supervisor. A spokeswoman for the school said it had made an innocent mistake.

Jane Phillips, chairwoman of the National Association of Governors and Managers, who spotted the problem, said it highlighted confusion within the Department for Education and Skills about governors' roles and responsibilities. "This case provides an example of the creative use of governor commitment. Unfortunately, it is illegal. This is a case of the left and right hands at the Department leaving us all wondering 'OK then, what is good practice?'" A DFES spokesman confirmed that a governor would have to stand down as vice-chair if they were receiving payments from the school. But it was unable to elaborate on the reason for the blunder.

See Local Focus: West Sussex, inside

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