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If it all goes pearshaped?

Discussion in 'Governors' started by sulla88bc, Aug 15, 2011.

  1. Hi Clare

    I was appointed (internal candiate) as Joint Head of my small independent SEN school in Jan of this year. I was dismayed when a new Chair of Governors was voted in not long after as she is no fan. That said she was on the interview panel that appointed me. I am very inexperienced to be an HT (8years total teaching exp). Of course the inevitable happened and my co-Head has resigned to be able to devote time to her other career. Our working relationship has been fabulous, she has been my boss, my friend and mentor in no particular order over the years. She leaves soon. Since then the CoG has frankly gone a bit non-linear, she has expressed surprise that INSET days are not rountinely open to the governors. It's not that they aren't welcome, but I fail to see the relevance of them coming to a timetable discussion or a preparation for term INSET, also as they have never been before it would almost certainly not be viewed as evidence in their confidence in me. She makes disparaging remarks at every opportunity, always in jest but with a certain barb. Recently things came to a head when she and a colleague rang me at home one after the other with a tirade of complaints over something that I was not only unaware of but was entirely beyond my control. She has been to staff behind my back and reports to me complaints about my leadership style which have since been shown to be complete nonsense. The outgoing co Head has also come in for this level of stick recently having always before had a good relationship with her. Currently I would feel very nervous if a complaint was filed about any member of my staff that had to be resolved by the Governors, I am not sure they would be supported.Her reaction to anything that goes wrong is initially that it must be my incompetence, despite the fact that on every occasion it has not been. She is about 75 and I am 40, she constantly verbally pats me on the head in public. Her abrasive manner has been commented on by other members of staff, including the school secretary who I simply cannot lose! To remedy this dysfunctional relationship we two heads are going out for lunch with her, her close ally and another member of the board who is very much on our side, predates both troublesome governors and is apalled by what has been going on. I am confident in my own diplomatic skills but......if it all goes pear shaped and she refuses to see that her role is not to interfere in the day to day runnning of the school, and that jumping to erroneous conclusions as to my efficiency are more than unhelpful, what do I do next?
    I would more than happily force her off the board and I think I could but she would not go down without a fight and my own personal antipathy is far less important than students the school looks after. The board would be split with 2 in my favour, 2 against, the parent reps would be on my side and the staff but of course the final two don't get a vote. We urgently need governors as three have just retired leaving us short.
    It might influence your answer to know that there is no way on earth they could replace me on the salary they pay me...about the same as classroom teacher in ms (its a pay off I get to be HT after only 8 years they get a cheap HT - the last one was free - founder!)
    Lunch is on Friday

    Thanks
     
  2. Hi Clare

    I was appointed (internal candiate) as Joint Head of my small independent SEN school in Jan of this year. I was dismayed when a new Chair of Governors was voted in not long after as she is no fan. That said she was on the interview panel that appointed me. I am very inexperienced to be an HT (8years total teaching exp). Of course the inevitable happened and my co-Head has resigned to be able to devote time to her other career. Our working relationship has been fabulous, she has been my boss, my friend and mentor in no particular order over the years. She leaves soon. Since then the CoG has frankly gone a bit non-linear, she has expressed surprise that INSET days are not rountinely open to the governors. It's not that they aren't welcome, but I fail to see the relevance of them coming to a timetable discussion or a preparation for term INSET, also as they have never been before it would almost certainly not be viewed as evidence in their confidence in me. She makes disparaging remarks at every opportunity, always in jest but with a certain barb. Recently things came to a head when she and a colleague rang me at home one after the other with a tirade of complaints over something that I was not only unaware of but was entirely beyond my control. She has been to staff behind my back and reports to me complaints about my leadership style which have since been shown to be complete nonsense. The outgoing co Head has also come in for this level of stick recently having always before had a good relationship with her. Currently I would feel very nervous if a complaint was filed about any member of my staff that had to be resolved by the Governors, I am not sure they would be supported.Her reaction to anything that goes wrong is initially that it must be my incompetence, despite the fact that on every occasion it has not been. She is about 75 and I am 40, she constantly verbally pats me on the head in public. Her abrasive manner has been commented on by other members of staff, including the school secretary who I simply cannot lose! To remedy this dysfunctional relationship we two heads are going out for lunch with her, her close ally and another member of the board who is very much on our side, predates both troublesome governors and is apalled by what has been going on. I am confident in my own diplomatic skills but......if it all goes pear shaped and she refuses to see that her role is not to interfere in the day to day runnning of the school, and that jumping to erroneous conclusions as to my efficiency are more than unhelpful, what do I do next?
    I would more than happily force her off the board and I think I could but she would not go down without a fight and my own personal antipathy is far less important than students the school looks after. The board would be split with 2 in my favour, 2 against, the parent reps would be on my side and the staff but of course the final two don't get a vote. We urgently need governors as three have just retired leaving us short.
    It might influence your answer to know that there is no way on earth they could replace me on the salary they pay me...about the same as classroom teacher in ms (its a pay off I get to be HT after only 8 years they get a cheap HT - the last one was free - founder!)
    Lunch is on Friday

    Thanks
     
  3. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    sulla88bc, are you a non-maintained special school, or are you a fee-paying independent school?
     
  4. We are a fee paying independent with about 75% of students placed by the LA...essentially our governors are actually trustees - but the role, as I understand it, is broadly the same.
     
  5. harsh-but-fair

    harsh-but-fair Lead commenter

    sulla88bc wrote on another thread - I am an UQ HT having taught for about 8 years without QTS in the independent sector and at Uni.

    Hmmmmmmmmmmm
     
  6. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Lead commenter Forum guide

    As an independent school none of the regulations that apply to state schools apply to you and your governance arrangements are presumably set out in your trust deed or similar. They are clearly different to the regulations that apply to state school governing bodies. What does your trust deed say about the respective roles of the HT and the governors/trustees? Does it even say that the governors/trustees shouldn't get involved in management matters? What does your job description/contract of employment say? You might find it useful to look at The Education (School Government) (Terms of Reference) (England) Regulations 2000 which define the relationship for state schools and use it to help you shape your discussion.

    Notwitstanding the regulatory differences some things are much the same in any organisation where a 'chief executive' is accountable to a a bord of lay trustees/governors. Both parties have to be clear on their roles, and confusion about roles is an all too common source of difficulty. Without knowing the people involved no-one can really say on this forum how you should mange the lunch on Friday, but my inclination would be to put your concerns to the trustees/governors in a straightforward way and say you'd like an open disussion about the issue. That's more likely in most cases to get a productive outcome than skirting round the subject and scheming to get rid of the chair of trustees. Make clear that you took the job on the basis that you are responsible for running the school day to day, not the trustees, but that you are acountable to the trustees for how you do the job. The difference between 'responsibility' and 'accountability' is important.
    Do you have performance management procedures in place for you similar to those used in state schools? If not sugest that you put them in place, then if any trustees have concerns they can raise them in an appropriate way within the PM process.
    It rings a small alarm bell for me that none of the issues raised in your post by either you or the trustees/governors appear to relate dirctly to the education the children at your school are getting. Don't take your eye off what really matters, the childen and what they are achieving.
     
  7. The level of your salary hasn't influenced my answer because I do not think it is a relevant fact. To me, the key issue is whether the chair of governors is acting inappropriately and if she is what action you can take. As I have said previously in a response to another question in this forum, my governance experience is in the maintained sector rather than the independent sector and in the maintained sector, Regulations make very clear that the headteacher is responsible for ‘the internal organisation, management and control of the school'. However, presumably, your school has its own governance arrangements which will set out the responsibilities of the headteacher and the governors and it may be that these need to be made more visible, or if they are not clear and specific, then they need to be reviewed. It may be that a review of the governance structure and, especially, the scheme of delegation, would be a way in to this issue, and it would be an opportunity to introduce role descriptions for governors and governors with specific roles e.g. the chair, vice chair, finance governor, plus, of course a code of conduct (there is a model for NGA members on the NGA website), and an agreed set of protocols for such things as attendance, meeting cycles, management (distribution of papers etc) and visits to the school. If your school has an overarching Trust, then working with someone from the Trust body on this would be a good idea.
    Does the chair of governors know that the purpose of the lunch is to discuss her relationship with you/your co-head? If not, then I suspect it is quite likely to go ‘pear-shaped' as people do tend to react badly when things are sprung on them unexpectedly. I'm also not convinced a lunch is a best place to discuss these issues. Although it creates an informal setting, you could be discussing quite emotive/personal issues in public. If you are looking to ‘professionalise' the relationship, then a business style meeting might be a better bet for setting the tone. Again, if there is an overarching Trust, bringing someone in from the Trust to act as a mediator might be an idea.
    I am sure that your school will have a grievance procedure and you could consider bringing a grievance against the chair. However this should be a very last resort.
    Clare Collins
     
  8. TY Clare

    I too suspect that lunch may not be the best way of handling this, however, I am bowing to the experience of my co-Head on this one. We are a very informal school so maybe it will work. There is a document which clearly states that the Trustees should not be involved in the day to day running of the school, or in any other planning than financial, nor in the setting of policies that do not govern their own conduct or responsibilities.
    I think much of this may be "new broom" syndrome and I hope that things will go well. We do have a grievance procedure but am not keen to use it because it does sour the relationship completely and is, as you say, a last resort.
    I have re-worked the Code of Conduct and Responsibilities document (at the Trustees request) and was going to use this as the "reason" for lunch and as a springboard for discussion.

    Thank you for the advice, it confirmed what I thought myself, that lunch has to be a success!


     

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