Points for good behaviour

5th May 1995 at 01:00
A chair of governors details his school's draft written code of conduct for governors.

To help her draw up a code of conduct, Joan Dalton wanted someone "with a really awful governing body" to tell her governors what not to do - "before they do it" (TES, April 14). We don't quite fit that bill but, like Joan, we are in the process of formalising custom and practice into a written code of practice. So far it looks like this: Agenda: The clerk in consultation with the chair is responsible for drawing up the agenda for governors' meetings. Any governor who wishes to raise a matter at a meeting should discuss it first with the chair. Matters of concern should not be raised under Any Other Business without prior discussion.

Appointments: We aim to make interviews human, friendly, relaxed and two-way. Questions are agreed (and rehearsed) by the panel beforehand and are designed to give candidates every opportunity to show what they know and can do; candidates do not have to stay after their interview to await the outcome but are contacted afterwards at home. (The head offers a professional view on how they came across at interview.) Attendance at meetings: The governing body decides who may attend governors' meetings - other than those entitled to be present. It is accepted that a member of the senior management team may attend full meetings to advise on agenda items and for their own professional development.

Chair's powers: The chairman has been delegated no specific powers. He or she (or the vice-chairman in the absence of the chairman) may only act on behalf of the governors when delay in calling a meeting would be deleterious to the interests of the school or a pupil. The chair (or vice-chair) would normally consult with an appropriate range of governors and must report on her or his action at the next full meeting.

Complaints to governors: Anyone expressing dissatisfaction with any aspect of the school should be encouraged to give the school a proper chance to address their complaint. Before the governing body takes up a formal complaint, the head should have been given an opportunity to resolve the matter with the person concerned. Where complainants are reluctant to take up their complaint directly with the person responsible at the school, governors may offer to go with them to see the head. If they are reluctant to do even that, governors may offer to report their complaint to the head or chair of governors. The governing body will not normally treat an anonymous complaint as a formal one or expect the head to do so. In the interests of fair play, governors receiving complaints should avoid making judgments before hearing all sides of the case.

Conduct in school: Individual governors have no powers other than those specifically delegated to them by the governing body. We enter the school and classrooms by invitation. Courtesy, fair play and good management require us not to make public critical remarks about any aspect of the school. Any matter causing a governor concern should be taken up with the head andor chair of governors.

Confidentiality: It is the duty of every governor to help to make the governing body's decisions and policies more widely known, and to hear what parents, staff, pupils and the wider community think about them. The following must be treated as confidential: * Any matter concerning the personal circumstances or welfare of an individual pupil, parent or member of staff. Governors should not normally discuss these matters with the individual concerned unless asked to by that person or by the governing body.

* Any matter which the governing body or one of its committees agrees by a majority to minute as a confidential item.

* Individual's views; in the interests of open and frank debate and disclosure, governors are not expected to discuss outside the governing body the information or views divulged by particular individuals in governors' meetings, interviews or appeal proceedings.

Decision-making committees: All governors (parent, local authority, elected teachers, co-opted and the headteacher) have an equal right to be involved in all the functions and decisions of the governing body so far as the law allows (we had in mind particularly decisions on staff pay and appointments and pupil exclusions). Where decisions are delegated to a panel or committee of governors, that group will be elected by the governing body or appointed in a manner formally approved by it.

New governors: The link governor will contact every newly-appointed governor and ensure he or she has the necessary background papers, know at least one face at their first meeting and is signed up for an induction course and other training courses.

Vested interests: Governors should not take part in a discussion or decision in which they or their partners have a personal interest, without declaring that interest. It will then be open to the governing body to ask that governor to withdraw or abstain. Any governor who has a pecuniary interest (or whose partner has a pecuniary interest) in a debate or decision should withdraw from that discussion and not vote on it in accordance with the legal requirements. Teacher governors whose pecuniary interest in a decision is no greater than that of teachers in general in the school are not regarded as having a pecuniary interest requiring them to withdraw or abstain.

* This draft does not cover every eventuality. But as far as individual conduct goes, there are some things so beyond the pale that it seems insulting to write them down for a generally well-behaved lot of governors. But like Joan Dalton, I'd like some examples of the worst possible practice to legitimise some rather more pessimistic "thou shalt nots".

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