Joan Sallis answers your governors' questions

15th October 2004 at 01:00
Our head is retiring after 15 years. He has been tremendous and we'll be lucky to get anyone as good. Some qualities are timeless, but there are many changes since he was appointed which call for additional skills. The trouble is that our present head can't leave us alone to do the preparation and I doubt if he can accept that he won't be in at the interviews. Now possible candidates are visiting the school and if he possibly can, he button-holes them for a chat, gives us feedback, and keeps on asking us what tests we are going to arrange and reminding us of things to take account of. Have you any advice for us?

Poor head. It must be very hard to accept that what happens now is out of his hands, and it is just more evidence of his care for the school. But you are quite right. He mustn't do it. There is no mention in the statutory arrangements for appointing a new head of involvement of the outgoing one, but there is a definite legal prohibition on attending any meeting concerned with the appointment of a successor and the associated convention is that he or she keeps well away from the process. The responsibility is the governing body's. The work of schools has changed in many ways since his formative years and you must look to the future, hopefully still with the same fundamentals of care, integrity, vision and humanity well to the fore. The only question is who can best say to your head, firmly without hurting him, that while he will naturally meet possible candidates who visit, it is not proper for him to try to influence your decision in any way. Possibly, your chair could have a word, but I cannot help thinking that it would be kinder if it came as an apparently routine intervention by your attached inspector or other senior LEA person, since after so many attempts to engage you in discussion about it he is bound to see your warnings as a rebuke. Can you discreetly make this happen? And please, do not be influenced.

One of my fellow governors is having an affair with a teacher at the school. Both are married, though he and his wife are separated, and her husband also teaches at the school. My colleague is very discreet but I can't help feeling it isn't right and that it will cause us trouble one day.

It may well cause you trouble, but as long as the affair remains discreet I don't think you can do anything about this. Do be careful, however, that your colleague does not play any part in decisions about pay or promotion affecting this staff member, even indirectly by participation in decisions on other appointments which might make openings for her or otherwise work to her advantage.

Please keep requests for private replies to your queries to a minimum since we aim to provide helpful information for ALL readers and always protect the identity of schools and individuals. Send questions for Joan Sallis to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see

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