Plans to allow parents voting rights in local authority meetings have stirred up a hornet's nest. Mark Whitehead reports
Labour-controlled Brighton and Hove seems to have wholeheartedly embraced partnership. It includes two governors on its education committee though the law does not allow them to be voting members.
"The governors need to be in on every decision going," says Freda Warman-Brown, chair of education. "It goes two ways. They need to be able to observe what's going on in the committee and report back to their network, and it helps us to be able to hear their views. It is the best forum for allowing them to feed in what they want to say and take back decisions made by the committee to their members in the schools."
The local Governors' Network has more than 1,000 members from the town's 10 secondary, 63 primary and seven special schools. They meet once a term - a committee meets more often - to discuss matters of interest. The Network elects two representatives, one of whom must be a parent governor, to the council's education committee.
All sides seem happy with the arrangement, put into place when Brighton and Hove became a unitary authority last April.
"The amount of influence we can have is quite small because we do not have a vote," says David Taylor, a governor education committee representative. "The main advantage is that we can form contacts with officers and councillors. If we want to discuss problems we know who to talk to and who to bring pressure to bear on."
Jane Lee, chairman of the Network, which is not affilitated to the NGC, says: "We thought it was absolutely vital that governing bodies should be involved and consulted and that our voice should be heard."
"If there was no governors' network it would be very easy just to think about your own school. We need to work together. There are so many issues to get to grips with."
Mrs Warman-Brown finds it hard to believe other local authorities do not all have similar arrangements. She has no objection in principle to expanding the committee to include governors as full voting members. "I wouldn't reject it out of hand," she says. "It's something that ought to be looked at."