What happens when external organisations fall out on school premises

Reflection – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
We have had a dispute in the school with regard to two bodies providing out of school hours provision for the children. They both share the same premises. The managers of these bodies do notcooperate. This has resulted in an ongoing dispute involving legal issues which has had to be dealt with by the Local Authority.

The issue was made more difficult because it involved one governor who was a manager of one of the organisations, resulting in claims of conflict of interest.

What happened?
We received help from the LA in investigating a complaint relating to tension between the two organisations. It is at present with the legal department of the LA. One the governors was able to assist, drawing on their trade union background.

What lessons were learnt?
We have thus far failed to resolve the issue and it is in the hands of the local authority. Problems relating to conflicts of interest are problematic.

This is an interesting situation. It would be useful to know more about the background and circumstances of how the initial arrangements were established. It is assumed that the school is a community school but the legal set up and contractual arrangements for both organisations are not clear. Are they separate entities from the school and are both operations hiring the school premises? If so, does the school have a ‘use of premises policy?’

That said, it is a pity when organisations fall out. This can have a knock-on effect on the work people do, in this case providing out of school provision for children. Legal issues are obviously on-going and it is hoped that the situation will be resolved swiftly.

Governors must always complete a declaration of business interest each year, usually at the first governing body meeting in the Autumn term. Governors Cymru Services has information on this, as well as a template form. The Local Authority may also have business forms that governors can use.

Any governor who may benefit from the outcome of the decision, must declare an interest in any specific agenda item and withdraw from the meeting, therefore, taking no part in the discussion or voting.

It is good practice for the Chair of governors at the start of each meeting to check that there are no conflicts of interest relating to any of the agenda items.

If there is any doubt as to whether a governor should withdraw or not, the governing body will need to make the decision.

Detailed information regarding the restrictions on persons taking part in proceedings of governing body and committees can be found in Chapter 4 of The School Governors Guide to the Law.

It is always best to check out the position if, as a governor, you are unsure. Impartiality and objectivity need to prevail at all times.

The case study also indicates that a complaint arose and an investigation took place. What is not clear is the nature of the complaint i.e., is the complaint about a governor with a perceived conflict? Further information on complaint processes can be found here. Please refer to the section on special circumstances page 22 section 4.8 – complaint about a governor.

Information about the use of school premises is available in Chapter 26 of the School Governors Guide to the Law.

What things can your governing body do to prevent unexpected issues relating to conflicts of interest?
Has your school ever encountered problems resulting from tensions between external organisations providing services on school property? If so, what did you do to resolve these?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

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