Parent governors' elections unfinished

24th September 1999 at 01:00
Hundreds of schools have yet to elect extra parents on to their governing bodies - despite Government pledges to increase parental representation by the start of this term.

All schools were meant to have held elections for new parent governors and non-teaching staff representatives in the summer term. However, a TES survey of 30 authorities has uncovered several where a significant number of schools - varying between a "handful" and the "majority" - have yet to complete the process.

A Department for Education and Employment spokesperson said governing bodies should have been reconstituted from September 1. Officials are aware that some schools have deferred elections, but do not know the numbers involved.

The department's transitional arrangements do allow for delays where schools have found it impossible to hold elections. Such schools are not breaking the law, the spokesperson said, but they need to act soon.

Several authorities knew why schools had not completed the process - they were too busy, or had held elections but received no nominations. However, some had made a conscious decision to delay the elections to allow new parents to stand.

In Nottingham, most of the city's 133 schools have deferred the elections to this term - mainly because of the pressure of work last summer, according to Leonie Meikle, governors' team leader.

She said the city's schools now need to find around 170 parent governors and 84 staff representatives. "We are hopeful that by the end of term those people will be elected," she said.

Up to a quarter of Bristol's 171 schools have yet to hold elections. This has had a knock-on effect on the city's vacancy rate for parent governors, which is running at 24 per cent - or 165 out of around 680 places. That compares to rates of between 11 and 18 per cent for other types of governor.

A council spokesperson said it expects the parent vacancy rate to improve once all schools have held elections. Officers then plan to review any further governor shortfalls and target their next recruitment campaign accordingly.

Parent and non-teaching staff vacancy rates are also running high in Norfolk (21 and 64 per cent respectively), in part because not all schools have held elections.

A Leeds spokesman said around a third of its schools had not yet elected the additional parents. And an authority in the South-west reckons up to half of its schools have opted for elections this term - mainly to allow new parents a chance to stand.

A handful of schools in Portsmouth, Devon, Manchester and the East Riding of Yorkshire also have still to select their new parents.

John Adams, chairman of the National Association of Governors and Managers, said it was too early to get a clear picture of whether the changes to governing bodies had made recruitment more difficult.

But it would be of concern if governing bodies did not have a full complement of members for their first meeting this term, when committee responsibilities and workload are shared out.

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