Yesterday evening I attended Exclusion Training for School Governors. Leaving aside the death by PowerPoint, disparaging remarks about ‘ladies in the office’ and the need for the trainer to spend 25 minutes telling us about how the new regs are no where as good as the old regs which were perfect it was an interesting session.
One of the few areas that stuck out for me was the trainers assertion that Governors should rarely overturn the decision of the Head-teacher and only consider doing so in exceptional circumstances. Woah there – so you want me to independently review any decision to exclude a pupil for 15 days or more but not too closely? Well not quite but sort of.
His message was – don’t reinstate due to a technicality or a failure to follow process (ah the Polkey no difference argument ok yep got that) and rely on the Heads view of balance of probability.
He then completely contradicted himself and said but in review ask questions, completely satisfy yourself, and by doing this other parties, that any decision was proportionate to the circumstances.
I have to admit I’ve come away a bit confused. My role as stated by the regs and in the statutory guidance is to independently review to ensure that the decision was reasonable, fair and proportionate. Excluding a pupil can have far reaching impacts on that child’s future (I don’t have the facts and figures with me but the study’s show that exclusion is often the beginning of a ripple effect) and the decision should never be, and I’m confident on out heads case, taken lightly. But, and here’s the rub, I shouldn’t review too much as I should support the head in most cases.
I’m hopeful that I’ll never need to attend a Governor Review Committee in this school but if I did I think I’d find it difficult to not hold any decision to the highest scrutiny. The role of the governor is to be critical friend to the Head but also to ensure that the best decisions are made for all pupils – not to stand beside the head saying I’m independent and I support every decision out head makes.
It’s a difficult and fine line to walk sometimes and requires a good, authentic and mutually respectful relationship with the head that takes time to build and develop.
I didn’t enjoy the session last night – it was an hour longer than it needed to be, was rushed at the end with no focus on what are called ‘special cases’ for children with SEN or under referral as the anecdotes from the trainer and his 300 review hearings took too much time but it has made me think and reflect which is a good result.
So onwards and hopefully I won’t get the call.
One last thing – you can’t exclude someone for being pregnant! No sh*t!