Joan Sallis answers your questions

22nd October 2004 at 01:00
Following reorganisation we have four fewer members than before, 15 in all, with five parents and three staff including the head, for a comprehensive of about 1,100 pupils.

Our head persuaded us to go for a smaller model because it was getting harder to recruit parent governors, and co-options were even more difficult.

He said that if we had 20 governors we would have to find seven parents and, as he put it, "we probably haven't got that number up to the job". He has, however, been successful in getting some local professional and business people to become associate governors on the finance and development committees, and a few of us are now concerned as we also have subject teachers on the curriculum committee as associates. The head persuaded us to keep our committees small, with only four governors on each.

It would be easy for staff and the extra governors to drown our voice. Also I think parents do not come forward because they feel they do not have much say.

This is just the sort of set-up I was afraid might become common when I saw the 2002 regulations. Your head's remark about the parents' capacity to contribute reflects his own agenda.

There are some ways to restrain the process you have described. Remember that you, the governors, make the decisions about committee numbers and powers and they are not unchangeable. Also, associate governors could not exist without your agreement, and that includes the extra staff on committees. You would be better off with another elected teacher governor and they are accountable to the staff as a whole.

When opportunity again arises, think carefully what size and balance you want for committees and how much delegation. The local education authority representatives do not have to be councillors. Finally, remember that associate governors only have votes if you so decide, not the head. Even then there are a few restrictions on what they can vote on, and they cannot vote at all unless "real" governors are in a majority.

You have been persuaded to do some things which are not very democratic.

See if you can take steps to increase the respect in which parents are held in your school.

Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 32023205, or see www.tes.co.uk governorsask_the_expert

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