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Conflict of Interest

Discussion in 'Governors' started by rosiems, Mar 30, 2012.

  1. Hi, Can anyone please advise. If a governor is a partner in a private company, which supports and helps schools in converting to acadamies, declares a business interest, do they then have to withdraw from meetings regarding conversion to acadamy status? Is the governor allowed to foward an email to all school staff inviting them to a meeting to be held by his own company, along with other companies and banks which promotes conversion to acadamy. Is it ethical that he should be allowed to make a presentation to governors on the subject of conversion? My concern is that this person has a business interest and may therefore have undue influence. Normally governors have a strict policy of ensuring that anyone with a business interest withdraws from areas of governance that may be influenced by those interests, but with this one they seem to be turning a blind eye - perhaps because some of the governors are pro-acadamy! I am not sure where to find out about the legalities of what is happening. Many thanks.
     
  2. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    simple answer is no no no no. This is completely out of order and a complete abuse of the concept of a conflict of interest. halt it in its tracts. you owe that to all the stakeholders of the school. is this governor also a governor at other schools. shocking unbelievable behaviour is you chair asleep?
     
  3. Many thanks for your reply Montiagh. Our chair would love us to become an acadamy - there lies the problem.
     
  4. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    I agree with montiagh that this sounds wrong, but you are going to have to unpick this a bit to sort out what's actually prohibited.
    This governor has a pecuniary interest in whether your school decides to apply for academy status - they've already declared it so it's not in dispute - and so the law is absolutely clear; they must withdraw from any part of any meeting at which conversion to academy is being discussed and not vote on the matter. That's an absolute legal requirement set out in the Schedule to the Procedures Regulations and is in line with normal public sector obligations. If he doesn't withdraw ask the clerk advise the meeting on the law. The Regulations are also clear though that provided the pecuniary interest is declared and the governor withdraws a governor is entitled to enter into a contract with the school and make a profit from it.
    The law is here in paragraph 1 (1) of the Schedule to The School Governance (Procedures) (England) Regulations 2003
    http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2003/1377/schedule/made
    Beyond that the law is less clear. It isn't unethical to make a presentation to governors if the GB have invited him to do so, which they presumably did. Governors ought to hear also from others who takea different view so that they can take a balanced decision, but ultimately it is up to the GB to decide what information it wants to have before it makes a decision.
    Whether sending an email to staff is unethical or breaches any rules depends what it says. Does it say or imply that he is sending the email on behalf of the GB or with their agreement or that he is representing them? If so that would wrong and the GB could take action against him (assuming they didn't authorise him to do that). If not the only question that comes to mind is where he got the email addresses from.
     
  5. Thank you for your detailed response Rott Weiler! The email was sent to the school office - which I presume he has for governor communications. It was in the form of a flyer inviting governors and heads considering converting to acadamy status to a free seminar ' will cover the legal, accounting and financial implications for academy governance'. What I'm having trouble understanding is if "they must withdraw from any part of any meeting at which conversion to academy is being discussed and not vote on the matter. That's an absolute legal requirement set out in the Schedule to the Procedures Regulations and is in line with normal public sector obligations.", how can he then be allowed to influence governors by presenting an argument to them?
     
  6. Sorry - I should have said - it was then forwarded from the office to all staff.
     
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Nickms, rereading your posts I'm now not sure if this governor does have a personal pecuniary interest requiring him to withdraw from your meetings when you discuss academy conversion. I'd read your OP as saying that he had declared a pecuniary interest but I think all he has done is enter his company on the Register of Business Interests. Is that the position? That in itself doesn't require him to withdraw. The legal test is whether he has a personal pecuniary interest , directly or indirectly, in the question the GB are actually deciding on. If the question you are deciding is "Should we apply for academy status?" then I doubt he has a pecuniary interest in that decision. He wouldn't gain any finacial benefit himself just from that decision. If subsequently the GB decides to appoint a consultant to support them through the process then that's the point at which he would have to withdraw.
    I've heard of a GB that wouldn't tell its members how to contact each other - bizarre behaviour in my view! It wouldn't concern me if this governor emails his flyer to the rest of the GB, it's how staff got it I was wondering about. Nickms has now explained that, although I'm still not clear whether the email was circulated stating or implying it was sent on behalf of the GB or endorsed in some way by the GB. That wouldn't be acceptable if it wasn't true. I don''t share your concern about one governor trying to influence the rest of the GB as long as he isn't selling his company's services, although that ought really to be done within a GB meeting not by email campaign! One email doesn't really constitute a campaign though. I agree that rather than focus on whether this governor can be prevented from influencing the GB, Nickms and governors who hold a different opinion would be better off putting their opposing views forward to influence the GB, eg in the way you suggest.
     
  8. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    RW. the GB you refer to in the midlands still operates the non disclosure of governor email addresses. The chair is a senior politician and senior executive of children's services who controls the LA clerking services who serve this gb and was the sole decider for the clerking SLA. A proper independent clerk would not allow this behavioiur.
     

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