Governors' regulations: consultation document;Briefing;Governors

4th June 1999 at 01:00
The statutory regulations for governors' work have always been sensible, designed to emphasise the seriousness of their responsibility, the corporate nature of their power, and every member's right to contribute.

A new edition now out for consultation maintains that tradition. There are, however, a few controversial proposals and one or two which may be impractical.

The most contentious proposal will surely be the exclusion of teacher and staff governors from discussions on pay or appraisal. Teachers' representatives have hitherto been restricted only by personal interest "greater than the generality of teachers," which puts them on an equal footing with other governors. To exclude them, along with the new support staff governors is surely wrong. Second-class governors are bad news. As for the new support staff governors, what an unfriendly start after the welcome recognition of their importance!

Another threat to the unity of the governing body is a new, admittedly rigorous, provision for getting rid of co-opted governors (though not elected staff or parents not appointed) who have proved unacceptable.

Many governors have had colleagues who have not pulled their weight or who cause trouble. But there are also many governing bodies where just one governor wants to work openly and with regard for rules, thinks deeply about principles, gets branded a trouble-maker rather than the guardian of all our consciences, and becomes inconvenient. Enough, I hope, said.

We must learn that training, experience and group discipline can develop people, and that the random, rich and undeniably awkward mixture we call the public is fundamental to our democratic institutions.

The two possibly impractical proposals are a requirement to appoint a committee of not more than five governors to deal with all exclusions, and changes to clerking rules. Times of exclusion hearings are often not negotiable, and if governors are ineligible because of prior involvement as witness, parent of victim or adviser, a governing body may need to draw on more than the same five members.

The suggestions that the clerk to the board should not be agovernor and that every statutory committee and preferably all committees should have one named clerk may also be unrealistic. Professional standards need professional funds.

Some will be welcome - more open and rigorous procedures for electing the chair and greater clarity on when the chair may act in matters of urgency. Governors removed for non-attendance may not be re-appointed.

Almost all the sound familiar rules survive, designed as they are to ensure that proceedings are open; that all members participate equally; and treat their shared power with respect.

Comments on the proposals should be sent by June 25 to Susan Barton, Area 3F, School Framework and Governance Division, Department for Education and Employment, Sanctuary Buildings, Great Smith Street, London SW1P 3BT, 0171 925 5594, or E-mail susan.barton@dfee.gov.uk. Copies available from same source, or from Governors' site on the NGL (www.dfee.gov.ukgovernorgovernor.htm).

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