Many of us have Chaired various meetings in the past, but I think one of the most testing; for me was when I was Chair of Governors at one of Harold Hill’s more notorious schools. Yes the school had a reputation, but all four of my children had attended that school so I didn’t think it was a bad school.
Some years after my children had left the school I became a governor, and eventually the Chair of Governors. It was time consuming but also satisfying. I enjoyed parent meetings when pupil achievement was discussed. Other times the disciplinary or school exclusion meetings could turn turn into constructive to destructive sessions within seconds.
One memorable meeting related to a boy of fourteen. He and his parents attended the potential school exclusion meeting on time. As usual, I introduced the members of the panel and their titles; Head Teacher, Form Teacher, teacher with pastoral responsibilities, the representative from the Council and of course myself. Next, I had to set down the meeting procedures which were quite straightforward. I would ask the Head Teacher to explain the reason for the meeting, I asked the Head Teacher to call witnesses he thought relevant to the meeting and then the panel to question them.
The case was one of insubordination towards teachers, being a bully in the playground and the lad had been caught selling cannabis to other students. Serious charges!
I invited the parents and pupil to cross examine what had been said. Usually the parent side started makingexcuses for their child. Sometimes it was difficult to stop and explain; both the parents and pupil would have the opportunity to question what had been said in the next part of the procedure. In this particular case it all went pear shaped. The parents didn’t like me interrupting them, said the whole meeting was clearly biased against their lad and he was being set up as a warning to other students to buckle down under the schools draconian rules.
I adjourned the meeting for ten minutes, to calm the situation; when resuming I again referred to the meetings procedure that I had laid down at the beginning. I pressed on inviting the parents to make their case to the governors. They should then explain why the case that the Head Teacher presented wasn’t accurate.
The parents started to repeat their tirade. After they had finished, I asked if they had any witnesses that they had asked to attend the meeting in support of their statements. Their answer was ‘No’.
In accordance with the procedure I asked the parents, pupil and Head Teacher with his witnesses to withdraw for the time being whilst the panel reached its conclusion. The young man didn’t do himself any favours, when leaving the room with his hands in his pockets, muttering… bastards.
The panel came to its conclusion. I called all the attendees to re-join the panel. I came straight to the point. I decided to uphold the exclusion for twelve weeks. During that period their son will continue his education in a central facility in Romford. I told them that they had the right to appeal the decision, but the appeal had to be lodged within six weeks.
It was an acrimonious meeting. The boy was aware of the parameters for behaviour and should have accepted his punishment without argument.