If you’re a school governor or interested in school governance, chat about the issues facing governors. You can get your questions answered by Stephen Adamson of the NGA if you start a new topic with "Dear Stephen" in the subject.
There seems to be a curious gap in the way complaints about a school get investigated. In my case a complaint was made about a non-academy school. The school have declined to comment on the matter despite having been given several opportunities to do so and the LA claim they have no power to investigate.
Not a minor matter either!
Yes indeed. The next step is to the DFE but the Secretary of State only has very limited powers of intervention. Seems to me that schools and GB's who break the rules (and sadky some do) are actually more powerful (and less acountable) than he is!
What is required in theory and what is possible in practice differ in many areas of life and school governing bodies are no different. Successive governments have changed the role of LAs so that they no longer directly manage schools and have limited powers of intervention. They are no longer an all purpose service for resolving complaints against schools so I can understand why they may say they can't do anything. Nevertheless the Secretary of State has powers to direct governing bodies if they act illegally, however reluctant the current SoS may be to do so! I suspect you already know this Martin, but there is law [Education Act 2002 s29] that says "The governing body of a maintained school shall establish procedures for dealing with all complaints relating to the school". Now to me "dealing with" implies some sort of positive engagement with complainants and a GB whose policy said in effect 'you can complain to us if you like but we'll only discuss it with you if we feel like it' isn't in my opinion complying with s29. The SoS may not agree with me though! If the issue is sufficiently important to keep pursuing it sounds like a formal complaint to DfE is the next step.
Are formal complaints looked at in any way during an OFSTED inspection?
Time, as they say, is a finite resource.
I'm torn two ways. My heart is telling me that no GB should be allowed to break the law (the breach isn't in dispute, who should be held responsible is the issue).
My head is telling me that since the finger of suspicion points firmly in the direction of the people who would also be sitting on any internal complaints committee that I am wasting my time communicating further with the school. I can see that I could spend lots of time escalating the matter without any real chance of substantive action being taken. Is it worth it?
MartinNicholson Is it worth it?
Is it worth it?
Only you can answer that Martin.
MartinNicholsonIs it worth it?
It depends whether or not you can live with yourself if you know, but do nothing. You have given no indication of the nature of the issue (and nor should you). However, it is not difficult to think of examples in which individuals may suffer greatly as a consequence of such law-breaking.
If you know, and you do nothing, you are colluding with the behaviour you find reprehensible. Individuals, be they teachers, students or other stakeholders, may suffer as a consequence. If the local authority wishes to distance itself, you collude with it, too.
You can have impact, if you choose. It requires not taking 'No' for an answer. You may need to involve your Member of Parliament and get to the Secretary of State that way, but it can be done. I managed to get my MP to get SoS to take action when I learned that it was possible for a local authority's legal department to put pressure on the GTC(E) to quietly drop referrals of serious misconduct made directly to the regulator.
Attributed to Edmund Burke, I believe, is the statement: "All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."
Yes indeed - it is the old adage that if you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.
Seems like there are some of us around! Oops
Time for an update!
Both the Local Authority and the Department for Education have agreed that the Governing Body acted in breach of the law. Both have provided me with full details of how my complaint SHOULD have been dealt with but both accept that they cannot MAKE the Governing Body act in this way. I have not received either an explanation or apology from the school - nor I suspect ever will.
So as far as the ordinary members of the GB are concerned they are in a state of blissful ignorance about the whole affair. They don't even know a complaint was received.
MN As it is impossible to know what you origianl complaint was with the school was about, can I direct you to sections 496 & 497 of the Education act that deals with illegalities of what GB's can get up to and what the SoS can do about it. RW some time back remarked that GB's now can be a law unto themselves with little redress which is very true. One angle that can be used to sharpen the thoughts of GB's who break the law is to threaten a Judicial Review on them. The Department of Education are pretty useless at sorting these problems out even though they have the power to do so. Some remark that they are not fit for pupose and from stories I have heard I would agree with this assessment.
Presumably who you complain to further would depend upon the nature of the breach. I don't see why you can't give an indication or outline of that breach, esp if the fact that a breach took place has already been widely accepted by (amongst others) the LA.
The options for proceeding are different if the matter relates to say a child protection issue or the GB simply failing to provide proper accounts or responding in time to a FOI request.
MartinNicholsonTime for an update! Both the Local Authority and the Department for Education have agreed that the Governing Body acted in breach of the law. Both have provided me with full details of how my complaint SHOULD have been dealt with but both accept that they cannot MAKE the Governing Body act in this way. I have not received either an explanation or apology from the school - nor I suspect ever will.So as far as the ordinary members of the GB are concerned they are in a state of blissful ignorance about the whole affair. They don't even know a complaint was received.
In my experience (which is all I have to go on) DfE civil servants are useless bureaucrats. If you consider the issue to be of sufficient import, get to the SoS via your MP. Once you finally get his ear, he listens and responds. I am sure he would be delighted to sweep away this corrupt GB and turn the school into another academy
G L - Any letter of complaint on Governance to the SoS will utimately not be answered by his immediate department. Instead it will be forwarded to the Department of Education's School Governance unit at Darlington who are much less useful than a chocolate teapot.
montiaghG L - Any letter of complaint on Governance to the SoS will utimately not be answered by his immediate department. Instead it will be forwarded to the Department of Education's School Governance unit at Darlington who are much less useful than a chocolate teapot.
Not helpful. I've had one of those from the DfE, when I wrote to the SoS there. That's why you have to go via the MP (helps mightily if yours is also a Cabinet Minister, as mine is) and ask him/her to write personally to Michael Gove, citing the 'chocolate teapottedness' of DfE civil servants. The trick is really to make a thorough nuisance of yourself and refuse to take 'No' for an answer. You don't want the DfE School Governance Department; you don't even want his immediate team: you want him!
Once I got to Michael Gove he listened and acted. Mine was also a corruption situation and he took pains (using the details of my experience to train staff in the new Teaching Agency) to ensure that the problem to which I alerted him, concerning the GTC(E), would not be replicated in future.
G.L. I am so glad that you found a way through and alerted everyone to the detail of how to to do it. Of course this should not really by the way to get satisfaction. Many thanks and well done!
Crispness - I have no doubt that any governor attempting a remedy through the local press would find themeselves up for suspension by breaking the school's code of conduct.
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