Joan Sallis Answers your questions

18th February 2005 at 00:00
Should a governor resign to pursue a complaint involving a teacher? I am a teacher at the school in question and I have heard that one of our parent governors is pursuing a complaint against the LEA about the special education needs provision for her child. I think I am at the end of this line because I am largely responsible for the work in question but we can only offer what school resources allow, and I believe this child's need exceeds what is available. Is it correct that this parent remains a governor or should she resign on the grounds of conflict of interest?

This is a very interesting question and I am not sure I can give you more than an opinion. I think it would be a great pity if a school were forced to take as strict a line as you suggest on a governor's freedom to deal with a personal issue - one which may indeed never involve the governing body directly. If the parent herself felt that she no longer wanted to serve the school as a governor that would be a different matter. But a school is a very small community and it will not, therefore, be all that unusual for parent governors to be involved more than other members in a particular issue. A genuine conflict of interest arises only when a governor is affected in a personal capacity by something which he or she has to discuss, express an opinion on or cast a vote on. Even then it is only necessary to declare the interest and play no part when the issue comes up: resignation would rarely, if ever, be appropriate. Indeed, even in a really bad case of a governor perhaps exploiting his or her position for personal advantage, colleagues have no legal power to do more than suspend him or her for six months on the grounds that the action brings the governing body into disrepute. In the case you write about it is unlikely that matter will even come to an issue between the governing body and the teacher.

I hope I have not underplayed the significance of a governor's personal involvement. Of course, we have to be scrupulous to ensure fairness in any dispute which concerns us directly. But as I said, schools are quite small communities and many things governors have to decide will affect some member's child more than others. Parent governors indeed gain credibility and usefulness from personal experience but soon learn the right degree of detachment. Defining the necessary degree of detachment too narrowly could become very silly.

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