Heads urge governors to boycott

17th May 1996 at 01:00
The best defence of any headteacher or governor choosing not to co-operate with the Government would be the safety of numbers, says Chris Lowe, legal adviser to the Secondary Heads Association.

The law itself is clear. The 1988 Education Act and subsequent legislation in 1994 and 1995 insist that heads administer the tests and that governing bodies pass on the results.

But as the boycotts in 1994 and 1995 demonstrate, if enough people break the law at once it is hard for the Government to do anything about it.

Both the National Association of Governors and Managers, and the National Governors Council have come out against the prospect of mass statute busting.

It is a bit rich, they say, for heads to recommend fellow pillars of the community do the dirty work while keeping their own hands clean.

In reply the NAHT says its stance is the only practical option. As employees of state-run agencies (schools) heads, it says, are doubly liable. They are contractually obliged to administer the tests, as well as bound by statute to do so. The contractual obligation (to meet the terms of employment set out by the Government itself) leaves them open to straightforward disciplinary action from the docking of pay to, ultimately, dismissal.

Governors on the other hand are only bound by the statute. According to Walter Ulrich, from the NAGM, a Government bent on enforcing the law would have few sanctions at its disposal: the Education Secretary would probably have to issue individual legal orders to 14,000 governing bodies, directing them to comply.

This would be expensive, time-consuming - the whole publication exercise is already taking ten months - and politically unfeasible.

Governor power was invented by the Conservatives; governors do the work voluntarily; and they are in short supply.

Moreover, as the NAHT pointed out this week, many governors are now approaching the end of their period of office.

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