Whistle blowing matters

A news item caught my eye the other day. This news item concerned a lady who had decided to move away from her home town after facing abuse (and worse). Her crime? She exposed the horrendous conditions in her local hospital where her mother had been treated. This led to the hospital being investigated and finally being closed. She is now being blamed for the closure of the hospital. The abuse she faced included her mother’s grave being defaced!

At around the same time I read about someone who blogs anonymously and many of the reasons he stated for doing so, rang a bell with me. Others could not understand these reasons and stated that bloggers should not remain anonymous.

These two stories then reminded me of what had been talked about on Twitter few weeks ago. Lord Nash while speaking at an NLG conference, had announced that he was happy for people to use his personal email address to whistle blow if they had concern about their governing bodies. I don’t know if he gave out his email address to his audience. If he didn’t, then I don’t know how easy it would be to get hold of the email address. The fact that he announced this makes me think that there must be governors out there who are worried about their governing body but don’t know what to do or who to turn to. But why whistle blow, I thought. Why not just announce to the world what is bothering you? Governors are volunteers and don’t depend on the governing body to put bread on their table. Whistle blowing as an employee is usually because you fear for your job and so need the protection of whistle blowing policies. What would make a governor go down this route rather than just raising the issues with others on the governing body?

The most obvious reason which I could think of was that the governor may fear retribution for airing his/her concerns. The governor may be a staff governor and the concerns may involve the Head or the school. The issues may be such that they didn’t want to use the school whistle blowing policy. Or the governor may be a parent governor and again, may feel unable to raise any issues concerning the Head (or a staff governor) for fear of what may happen to his/her child as a result.

I then started thinking of the issues which a governor may feel strongly enough about to do something about and take this route to do so. The most obvious one which comes to my mind is matters of financial probity. The governor may feel that financial matters are not being dealt with as they should and so decides to do something about it. Irregularities in financial matters will probably involve people higher up in the food chain and hence the need to whistle blow.

The governing body may be dysfunctional and governors may not realise this. Or if they do, they may be content to let things be for the sake of an easy life. All except one. Faced with this situation, what choice does this lone voice have?

I tried to do a Google search to see if there were any reports of governors whistle blowing, but could not find any. This does not mean that it does not happen. There may be very few cases and these may not be well known or publicised and therefore wouldn’t show up in this type of rudimentary search. Do you know of any such cases and would you be able to share the story? It goes without saying that no names should be mentioned. Or if you do not know of cases yourself, can you think of any reason why a governor would whistle blow (and who to? I assume to the DfE). Can you see yourself in a situation where whistle blowing may be your only option? Which type of schools would these governors belong to? Can we generalise? Should we generalise? My gut feeling is that Academies may feature more than maintained schools, only because Academies are free of local control so there is a greater danger of things going wrong without people knowing. (There is the other argument of course, that Academies are more likely to be found out if there are irregularities, especially financial irregularities).

Whatever your thoughts are on the subject, do share them. Lord Nash seems to think that whistle blowing matters. Do you?

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