HL Deb 17 May 1971 vol 319 cc3-4

2.38 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government to define the powers given to school governors and to explain how a local education authority can overrule a decision taken by the school governors as support for the action of the head-teacher.]


My Lords, the respective functions of the local education authority, the governors of a secondary school maintained by an authority and the head teacher are defined in the articles of government made for each school under Section 17(3)(b) of the Education Act of 1944. The precise functions delegated to governors vary from one local education authority to another and this also depends in some degree on whether the school is a country or voluntary school. In general, subject to the local education authority's power to determine the general educational character of the school, the governors of a country secondary school have the general direction of the conduct and curriculum of the school.

The question whether a local education authority acted properly in overruling a decision of the governors of a particular school could be determined only in the light of circumstances of the case.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord for that very full Answer, may I ask him whether this might be the moment to look again at the powers of the governors, if in fact we are to retain the high quality of people serving as governors?


My Lords, I know that this is something which has exercised the minds of people in education, and I thank the noble Baroness for bringing it to my attention. I can assure her that I will convey her question to my right honourable friend.


My Lords, arising out of the Minister's Answer, may I ask my noble friend whether he agrees that it is very unfortunate for an educational authority not to support the governors when the governors are endeavouring to support their headmaster? If this sort of thing is going to happen, I think it will weaken the powers of the governors. which I know are already very limited. I think this is a very unfortunate situation.


My Lords, in general terms I think it is a valued right in the educational system of this country that the responsibility for the running of our county schools is firmly in the hands of the local education authorities, as my noble friend has made clear he realises by the terms of his question. May I just point out to the House that articles of government invariably assign the internal management and organisation of a school to the governors and the headmaster; but these functions cost money, and I think it is only natural that local education authorities should have some final power of responsibility.