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Questions Re: Parent governor

Discussion in 'Governors' started by Davebrigg, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. Dear Stephen,
    I would be extremely grateful if you could answer these few short questions. Like most topics, I cannot disclose full details, but your opinion on the principles would be valued.
    1. Is it correct that a parent who is the only candidate to fill a vacant post as a parent governor is still counted as 'elected'? If there was no election, and instead the governing body approved them filling the place, could they then be described as 'co-opted' instead?
    2. A complaint about a governor's behaviour is raised by a Headteacher, with the Chair of Governors. At the same time the Headteacher raises a complaint directly with the same person regarding their behaviour as a parent. Can both issues be raised at the same 'informal' meeting, led by the Headteacher with the CoG present?
    3. If a governor who is also a parent raises concerns about safety, and speaks to members of school staff about the organisation of a trip their child is on, are they acting as a parent or governor? (In the discussion no reference was made to being a governor)
    4. Can an elected parent governor be threatened with removal from the governing body?

    The questions relate to an ongoing situation, which has already moved some way down the relevant processes. As such it would be useful to know whether your replies relate to just 'good practice', or have a legal basis.

    Many thanks for your help.
     
  2. Dear Stephen,
    I would be extremely grateful if you could answer these few short questions. Like most topics, I cannot disclose full details, but your opinion on the principles would be valued.
    1. Is it correct that a parent who is the only candidate to fill a vacant post as a parent governor is still counted as 'elected'? If there was no election, and instead the governing body approved them filling the place, could they then be described as 'co-opted' instead?
    2. A complaint about a governor's behaviour is raised by a Headteacher, with the Chair of Governors. At the same time the Headteacher raises a complaint directly with the same person regarding their behaviour as a parent. Can both issues be raised at the same 'informal' meeting, led by the Headteacher with the CoG present?
    3. If a governor who is also a parent raises concerns about safety, and speaks to members of school staff about the organisation of a trip their child is on, are they acting as a parent or governor? (In the discussion no reference was made to being a governor)
    4. Can an elected parent governor be threatened with removal from the governing body?

    The questions relate to an ongoing situation, which has already moved some way down the relevant processes. As such it would be useful to know whether your replies relate to just 'good practice', or have a legal basis.

    Many thanks for your help.
     
  3. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    1. If a PG vacancy arose and only one parent stood for election the individual is considered to have been legally elected to the GB for a specific term of office regardless of whether an election actually took place. It is not the role of the GB to approve or disprove of governor election results and certainly not to suggest that the election result is disbanded and the governor co-opted instead.The GB can only have a say in the appointment of parent governors and this only happens when parents have not put themselves forward for election to the GB (sometimes these are even drawn from neighbouring schools)
    2. IMO it is important (as a matter of good practice) to try to maintain boundaries between an individual's actions as a parent and their actions as a governor but there are times when the two can become blurred either because the individual has difficulty keeping issues separate or because staff and/or governors do.
    Any governor, including the HT, can raise a complaint with the CoG about a governor's behaviour. All governors have equal status on a GB and the fact that the governor is a parent should not in itself be of any relevance to the situation. If the GB has a Code of Conduct (not all do) the expectation is that this should be followed and enforced as a matter of good practice. The CoG should be familiar with the means of addressing and resolving such matters. It would not IMO be common practice for the HT to also be present at such a meeting even if they are the complainant.
    If the HT raises an issue with the same individual about their behaviour as a parent it might be that the matter does need GB involvement but I would suggest that this should only occur after the HT has first raised the matter with the parent either in writing or in person. I personally think the correct protocol would be for an individual to be given the opportunity to apologise and discuss the matter (and if necessary change their behaviour) before it escalates to becoming an issue for the GB to become involved with (as might happen for example if there was any suggestion that the parent should be barred from school premises)
    It might be tempting to have a joint meeting but TBH I think it would be both unfair and unwise to merge the issues. Parent/governor boundaries should be kept separate and the relevant school policies/GB codes of conduct should be followed. It is obviously not the position of any governor to abuse their position by raising personal issues with the GB but it is equally important to remember that parents (and their families) are entitled to privacy in respect of any issues they may have raised privately as parents and governors should not automatically know of these. However if you consider the matter to be serious enough and if the relevant school policies (Complaint/behaviour/health and safety etc) allows for the CoG to be present when the HT speaks to the person in question then there is no reason for this not to happen (though I would still keep the governor complaint entirely separate). They are after all two entirely different complaints which as a matter of good practice need to be handled separately under different protocols.
    3. Any parent regardless of whether or not they are a governor is entitled to raise concerns with members of staff. This should be done through the (statutory) school complaint procedure the first and second stages of which usually involve talking to staff.
    4. An elected (rather than appointed) PG can be temporarily suspended from the GB but suspension should only be used as a last resort and only once the correct procedures have been followed. It is worth noting that grounds for suspension are (primarily) in relation to an individual's actions as a governor not their actions as a parent (unless it can be shown that these have brought the GB into disrepute). It is also important to remember that during their period of suspension the individual governor is still legally entitled to continue to receive GB documentation (Minutes of meetings etc). I would however suggest that no governor should be threatened with this sanction. Reminded by all means but IMO either the legal grounds for suspension exist or they don't.
    Hope this is helpful. Have a look at section 26 of the GGTL http://media.education.gov.uk/assets/files/pdf/g/governors%20guide%20may%202012.pdf
    Or contact GovernorLine http://www.education.gov.uk/governorline if you need more specific advice than can be answered here.
     
  4. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007 (Schedule 1, para 9) say that the GB can appoint a parent govenor only if "the number of parents standing for election is less than the number of vacancies" so if there's one vacancy and one candidate stands for election then that candidate is an elected PG. It goes on to say (para 6) "Any election which is contested must be held by ballot" so it there is only one candidate the election is uncontested and no ballot is required. There are similar provisons in the 2012 regulations if you have reconstituted under those. An elected PG cannot be removed by the GB, although they could be suspended for one of the reasons set out in para 15 of The School Governance (Procedures) (England) Regulations 2003. The alternative to elected PG by the way is appointed PG - never co-opted, that's a different category.
    Although it's important for parents to be clear in their dealings with the school whether they are acting as parent or as governor I wouldn't myself go so far as to say that the haed always had to hold two separate meetings in the circumstances you describe in 2. If the head was wanting to discuss your child in that meeting then the COG shouldn't have been there.
    Re your 3, it's a factual matter about what was said at the time and the impression conveyed to the staff member concerned. Safer always to say expressly that you are speaking as a parent. Or what many PGs do if they want to raise a concern about something affecting their child is have their partner/spouse raise it.
     
  5. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    Sorry - just to clarify as it was late when I posted before - all governors are subject to suspension. It's just that PG's cannot be removed if elected (unless they fail to attend FGBM's for six months and ahve either failed to offer their apologies or the apologies have not been accepted by the FGB.
    I hope you reach a speedy resolution soon. It is not in anyone's interest to have conflict situations in a school or on a GB. [​IMG]
     
  6. Thanks again to you both for the clarifications. I am supporting an elected parent governor who was on the receiving end of a complaint from the Headteacher. The complaint was made via a letter which threatened the governor with removal from the GB, and was handed over personally by the headteacher when the governor was called to his office after collecting her child. At the time the headteacher was particularly aggressive and unpleasant, to the extent that the governor has since resigned and for several weeks afterwards avoided the school completely. The accusations were then dealt with by an 'informal meeting' led by the headteacher, with the Chair of Governors present.
    A formal complaint was made about the headteacher's conduct, which was at first dealt with by the head and CoG who felt there was no case to answer. After pressure the proper Governor's complaints committee met, but they felt that all the rules had been followed - the argument being that since there had not been a physical election, she could not be an elected governor and therefore could be threatened with removal.
    Your comments above have confirmed my feelings that policies have not been complied with, but most of the 'rules' appear to be vague enough to allow the head to argue that although he has not followed best practice or LA guidance, he has done nothing wrong. Grrmummy, you are right that a speedy resolution is desirable, and I have no desire to harm the reputation of the school. Weighed against this is the thought that if someone doesn't stand up to this bullying, the next governor to question his errors will get the same treatment.
     
  7. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    I have to say I am in complete agreement with you and wish there were more people around to do so. The lack of protection for governors (and parents) against such abuse of position by school officials is really quite staggering. Hope it all works out and that the former governor will in time consider joining another GB where their efforts will hopefully be more appreciated [​IMG]
     
  8. montiagh

    montiagh New commenter

    One of the biggest problems with school governance is that the vast majority of governors are completely clueless on regulations and legislation and bullies such as chairs and heads can make it up as they go along and get away with it.

    Your clerk if involved in any of this is clearly not fit for purpose.

    grrmummy is spot on that there is a complete black hole in the system of no duty of care or safeguarding of governors in difficult situations and their only recourse normally is resignation which is at odds with any kind of natural justice.

    Governors are the only individuals who in effect work in a school and have no protections when things go wrong. Unfortunately the dfe could not give two hoots.
     
  9. grrmummy

    grrmummy New commenter

    Thank you montaigh [​IMG]
     
  10. <ol>[*]Yes if a parent stood for election and was the only candidate s/he is classed as elected regardless of whether there was an actual ballot. The School Governance Constitution Regulations 2007 or 2012 do not state this explicitly, but (Schedule 1) does say that where &lsquo;an election is contested there must be a ballot' by implication this means that where there is only one candidate there does not need to be a ballot. In addition the same schedule prohibits restrictions being placed on the number of votes any candidate needs to receive to be elected.[*]It is important to distinguish between when an individual is acting as a governor and when they are acting as a parent. If the headteacher had issues with the way in which the individual has acted as a parent then s/he should have addressed that directly with the individual. Governors should only become involved if the matter cannot be resolved. If the problem is with the individual in their governance capacity then the chair of governors would usually deal with it - in the first instance one could hope this would be informally. When parent governors join the governing body this distinction between their position as a parent and as a governor should be made clear, but it can be a difficult line to tread. There is no specific legislation about whether these issues should be dealt with in a single meeting and it may be in some circumstances that is sensible, but it is important to preserve the distinction between the individual as parent and the individual as a governor. [*]A parent has every right to raise concerns about the organisation of a school trip, but given the possibility that lines can be blurred it may be helpful for parent governors to make absolutely clear when they are raising issues in their parental capacity. Every school is required to have a complaints procedure, which should be communicated to parents.[*]There is no mechanism for removing an elected parent governor. An elected parent governor can be suspended from the governing body, but not removed.</ol>
     
  11. Many thanks for the Stephen. Although the framework seems pretty clear at first, it seems to have enough wriggle room to allow someone to claim 'it doesn't actually say you can't do...'
    Would you consider someone who was not elected or appointed as a governor, but attended governor meetings to advise (associate member?) was a member of the Governing Body for the purpose of a complaints committee?
     
  12. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Davebrigg, a GB can have 'Associate Members' who are members of a committee but are not governors and are not members of the governing body. They might offer advice, as may any governor, although someone who "attended governor meetings to advise" doesn't sound like either a governor or an Associate Member. An Associate Member has to be formally appointed by the governing body and that would be recorded in the Minutes.
    An Associate Member could be a member of a Complaints Committee if appoiinted to it by the governing body. The GB would also decide if the AM had voting rights on the Committee. However, AMs don't count towards the quorum, which for a Committee is 3 Governors. So there would have to be at least 3 Governors on the Committee in addition to the AM.
     
  13. These are regulations, not a framework and although I am not a lawyer I am not convinced there is &lsquo;wriggle room' - I think the school has simply applied the regulations incorrectly. The Regulations require parents to be invited to stand for election and if more parents than available posts come forward an election must take place. The regulations do not allow a school to place any restrictions on the number of votes a candidate must receive to be elected. In addition, the regulations state that "The number of parent governors required must be made up by parent governors appointed by the governing body, if ...the number of parents standing for election is less than the number of vacancies". This indicates to me that you can only appoint when there are insufficient candidates, which was not the case here. I understand that the parent governor in question has resigned and so to an extent the rights and wrongs of the election/appointment have been superseded. It may well be worth bringing this to the attention of the local authority because depending on the type of school (specifically community and voluntary controlled schools) the local authority has over-arching responsibility for parental elections and delegates this to the headteacher.
    An Associate Member is not a governor - Regulation 11 and 12 of the Constitution Regulations 2007 or 2012 respectively. These state that an &lsquo; "associate member" means a person who is appointed by the governing body as a member of any committee established by them but who is not a governor.' Associate members are appointed to a committee of the governing body and may be given voting rights. The governing body can invite any other person to attend its meetings or provide it with advice, but such an individual would not be a governor and would have no right or power to vote.
    The Education Act 2002 requires that governing bodies establish a complaints procedure, publicise it and have regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State. Most school complaints procedures have a number of stages, the final one of which is an appeal to the governing body appeals panel. I can see nothing which specifically prohibits a governing body from making an associate member part of a complaints appeal panel, but the governing body needs to act in accordance with its own complaints procedure. Whether in this case an associate member (if indeed the person is associate member) was entitled to sit on the panel may depend on the wording of the complaints procedure - e.g. if it refers to an appeal panel of governors, then that should not include an Associate Member, but if it refers to a panel established by the governing body then it could include an Associate Member.
     

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