As a governor I was asked to sign ‘a code of practice’. I read it carefully and traced its origins. It was a modified version of a document that had been on the National Governors Association (NGA) website now replaced by a shorter, better written, version. A number of mistakes had been introduced; governors were said “to oversee the setting of statutory (legally binding) targets” though this was not the case. Other sentences emphasised ‘consultation’ with parents rather than ‘participation’ in decision-making. The most contentious element asked governors to make a commitment: “I will never do anything publicly that would embarrass the schools, the Governing Body, the Executive Principal or staff”. This was an unreasonable gagging order – and seemed likely to be unlawful since it is the duty of governors, and all staff, to expose abuses of power, including physical and sexual abuse, and to do that publicly if other avenues prove unsuccessful or if there is suspicion that criminal actions are involved. It seemed to breach the schools own safeguarding policy. Yet most governors across the three schools of the multi-academy trust, signed it. I contacted the NGA, asked their advice and was told that it was not common practice for a code to contain such a clause or to get governors to sign one.
Months went by and then the original version appeared unmodified with a repeated request for the very few governors who had not signed, to do so. It was only when I refused to sign, consulted with the parents association and the teacher unions and said that I would seek legal advice, that the document was changed.