We think poor results are the teacher's fault

Joan Sallis

OUR most recent key stage 2 results were very poor and our successes in the 11-plus, which we still have in our area, well down on previous years. Parents are naturally upset. It will affect the school's reputation locally, its numbers and therefore its budget. (We parent governors all think the new teacher allocated to Year 6 as soon as she was appointed is the cause.) A parent governor agreed to host an unofficial meeting to discuss this. We didn't invite the head or the teacher governors because we wanted a frank exchange and anyway, it took place in the holiday.

When the head came back he was furious. He is a governor and says we had no right to meet like this and also questioned our saying we were responsible for school standards and the quality of the teaching. Worst of all, he heard that we voted to assign this new teacher to a lower class, which he said was out of order. He knows I am writing to you for a ruling. We meant well.

Oh dear. You couldn't legally vote to change a teacher's placing because: a) governors don't control the way staff (or time, space or equipment) are used in the school (that's the head's management role); b) a meeting to which some governors were not invited is not a governing body meeting and has no authority.

The governing body is responsible for standards and can properly advise on measures to raise them, though the head is the one to take steps to improve individual teachers' performance as well as assigning them to classes.

But the real point is the calling of a meeting without the head and staff governors, which is extremely unwise and improper.

Only the whole governing body has any legal status. Any other meetings are only glorified gossip. I know that there are times when governors feel they need to discuss matters which are difficult to bring up with staff present, but we just have to grow up and learn to do it.

There's no future in working in factions, because without the staff's co-operation you can't change anything. Secondly, it's wrong because all governors have equal status. Even if the head were not a governor (as you know they can choose) there is a clear legal right to attend all meetings of the governing body and its committees. But he is a governor, and so are three school staff.

Imagine how you would feel if they called a meeting without telling you. Your chair should apologise and I'm sure your head will forget the incident. He'll know it's not an easy job and we all make mistakes.

You cannot be sure you know all the reasons for the poor showing in the last school year. The ability of that intake may have been unusual or there could have been circumstances besides the change of teacher.

Make sure you have a proper comparison, taking into account all relevant factors. After all, you are all on the same side.

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Joan Sallis

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