answers governors' questions
Like other governing bodies we have a form to fill in at intervals about interests that might influence our work as governors. I am considered a law-abiding person who always wants to be on the right side of things, but lately I have been losing sleep over two things which perhaps I should make public. One is professional, one personal.
The first is that I am a partner in a small publishing firm that sometimes publishes educational books, not textbooks, but conceivably books of interest to teachers. I did not enter this on the form. The other is that I have a grandson in the school and I would sooner not have this generally known as his father, my son, is divorced from his mother. She has now remarried after an unpleasant divorce we would sooner forget. I love the boy and our relationship is important to me, but as far as the school is concerned his mother and her new partner are his parents. Can I retain this relationship as part of my private life, or could it be a problem that I have not disclosed it? And should I declare the publishing interest? I have a feeling I should.
You imply you are a bit of a worrier and I do think you may have got these two things out of proportion. The object of the personal disclosures is simply to ensure that we do not allow our decisions to be influenced by personal circumstances, particularly if we could gain advantage for ourselves.
I don't know whether you have an objection to disclosing your business interest but if you haven't why don't you ask your clerk for the form again?
Having said that, it seems unlikely to me that anyone would consider it an interest which you should have declared. Yes, schools buy books, but the kind you refer to would surely be purchased mainly by individuals or for libraries, not in bulk as textbooks. Even if they were textbooks, the choice of titles is for professional staff and it is highly unlikely the choice would ever be the subject of a governors' decision.
The only conceivable case for concern would be if a publisher of a classic textbook in, say Italian, had to take part as a governor in a decision to add Italian to the modern languages offered by the school. Remote? Yes, exactly.
As for your grandson, we are not obliged to disclose personal relationships for the record at all. But if it happened that a personal relationship might influence a decision which the governing body or one of their committees had to make (eg in a senior staff appointment or a permanent exclusion of a pupil) it would be expected that the governor concerned would play no part in that decision because there was a reasonable doubt about ability to be impartial. Again that possibility is remote and nothing to worry about.
Send questions for Joan Sallis to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202 or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert