Governors breaking school rules: Does it matter?

In one word, yes!

This was a discussion I had a few days ago on Twitter. We were debating if, by going against a published and agreed school policy, a governor could potentially bring the governing body into disrepute. The specific case we were discussing concerned a governor taking his/her child out of school without the authority of the Headteacher and then having a fine imposed for doing so. I took a very hard line on this. In my opinion if the Headteacher has refused permission for the child to be taken out of school, then, firstly, the imposition of the fine is correct and, secondly, the governor too should face sanctions. One particular case we were discussing had even made the press. Now, if that isn’t bringing the governing body into disrepute what is?!

First, what does the law say about term time holidays? According to the Department of Education, headteachers have the discretion to allow term time leave in exceptional circumstances. This leave, however, should not be for family holidays. If children are taken out of school without permission parents may be fined. Now imagine if you will; a governor takes his/her child out of school without permission. What do you think should happen in this case? It is not for the governing body to decide what happens and whether sanctions should be applied. This is an operational decision. About this, we are all in agreement. The situation becomes complex once the headteacher decides to impose sanctions. As far as I am concerned, the governor has violated school policy and has had sanctions imposed. This, in my opinion, makes the position of the governor untenable. One person argued that the governing body may not know that the school had imposed sanctions on the governor and that if the headteacher brought this to the notice of the chair or the governing body, it would be breach of confidence. My question is what would the governing body do if it did become aware of this? We all know that playground gossip gets around and it is not inconceivable that someone may bring it to the notice of the governing body. This can happen and does happen so the governing body needs to be prepared. The governing body and its members cannot and must not be in a position where they are in breach of school policies. If people serving as governors breach school policies, how will they ensure that these are applied consistently? Also, by not adhering to the school policy, the governor may be seen to be setting a bad example to the rest of the parent body.

One of the arguments people put forward is that the holiday was taken as a parent and had nothing to do with the parent’s role as a governor. Again, I have problems with this argument. The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 state that a governor may be suspended1 if he/she is paid to work at the school and is the subject of disciplinary proceedings in relation to his or her employment. This, to my mind, is a similar situation. If, in this case, he person can be suspended because of something which has nothing to do with the role that person performs as a governor, then why not take action against a governor who happens to be a parent who has gone against the headteacher and taken the child out of school?

You may not agree with me, but I think that governors should abide by the rules of the institution they govern because they hold a public office and may potentially bring the school and the governing body into disrepute by not doing so. If you belong to the “company” then you need to follow the company policy.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles /


1. Suspension is not automatic. There are procedures which need to be followed before a governor can be suspended [Reg 17 paragraphs (2) to (4)].


2 thoughts on “Governors breaking school rules: Does it matter?

  1. Monique

    I couldn’t disagree more. How could the governance and leadership of the school have been brought into disrepute when the ultimate example was set; that the rules apply to everyone and that the threatened sanctions will be applied consistently against all transgressors even if they are governors?
    Are your parent governors always treated as governors when they interact with staff at school eg picking up their children or attending parent-teacher conferences? It would be very unusual and unhealthy for the staff/parent/child if they were. Most of the time when I am at school I am a plain old parent like any other. If I am at school on ‘Governor business’ I make an appointment and wear my badge and the interaction is very different. Distinct roles.
    Your parent governors are an important asset to you. But they are, thankfully, imperfect and human. Do you really want an array of robotic, ‘yes -men’ who are afraid to dissent or step out of line? Adding extra punishments and rules for parent governors is not only unfair but a very slippery slope to weak and ineffective governance.
    I do hope for the sake of your GB and your school that yours is a minority view as *I* certainly couldn’t work in such an unfairly punitive environment and would resign if another Governor was unfairly punished in this way without any regard to their value to the Board. And to be clear, I am not here defending something that I do. In 13 years of school parenting I have never taken my children out of school without authorisation. The most I have ever asked for is one day when my very elderly mother came from overseas to visit.
    And goodness, you are jolly lucky if this issue warrants so much worry on your part, at my school we have rather more important issues to occupy our time and energy.


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