Ways to loosen a governor's grip

Richard Gold

I am sure that everyone would sympathise with the experience of the primary headteacher who wrote last week about chairs of governors who abuse their powers ("I suffered at my governor's hands," June 4). However, the position is by no means as bleak - legally at least - as your correspondent suggests, for two reasons.

First, internal organisation, management and control of the school is the prerogative of the headteacher under the Terms of Reference regulations. This is a directly imposed responsibility and not one delegated by the governing body. The headteacher is bound to comply with any reasonable direction of the governing body in performing any delegated function, but the regulations do not give the governing body a power to give directions in relation to internal organisation, management or control. If the governing body (or any individual governor) attempts to do so, the headteacher may lawfully ignore them.

Second, the chair of governors, except in cases of emergency, has no individual power to make decisions. The chair can only act within the scope of any authority specifically delegated by the full governing body.

I believe the headteacher is correct that a local authority does not have power to remove the chair of governors, but an authority does have extensive intervention powers. One of the grounds for intervention is a serious breakdown in the way the school is governed. A breakdown of the head-chair relationship is a governance breakdown.

In a suitable case, the authority can appoint an Interim Executive Board, which would resolve the problem of the rogue chair of governors and also the allied problem of other governors unwilling to stand up for themselves or for the headteacher.

Behaviour of the kind your correspondent refers to is bullying. All staff - headteachers are no exception - are entitled not to be bullied, and headteachers in that position should consider how they would apply their school's anti-bullying policy if it were a student or another member of staff suffering. Also, one would hope that the headteacher's professional association would be quick to support the head in taking action.

Richard Gold, Consultant, education team, Stone King Sewell Solicitors, London.

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Richard Gold

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