Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Fergus Kilroy


It is abundantly clear that school governance legislation which includes the constitution, the procedures and the guidance of the Gttl is completely lacking in any kind of protection for school governors who are bullied and prejudiced against, in partaking in the largest volunteer force in the UK. Their avenues to redress are scant and the usual outcome is to leave the world of school governance so as to avoid any further bullying and prejudice. All allegations of bullying behaviour need to be investigated by an independent body not the near nonexistent avenues currently available. Raising standards in schools also involves raising the level of integrity, probity and reducing the incidence of bullying of school governance. The problem exists, is live and needs addressing by government.

Safeguarding Governors

In all schools we passionately believe in the protection and safeguarding of our children and there is sufficient legislation to enforce same. In a similar fashion employees of schools are also protected and they have the addition of union support if necessary. However, those that are volunteers in school such as governors who give freely of their time have virtually no protection at all. The dfe appears at first glance to be an appropriate body to turn to except that it is not. There is apparently no secret in school governor circles that complaints made to the Sec of State for Education have never been upheld in favour of a governor. This enquiry is a perfect and long overdue opportunity to put the mechanics of a framework in place to protect better those who have suffered at the hands of chairs and other governors without any possible recourse to what can amount to the laws of the Wild West. Is the problem rife, no it is not, but for those that it affects it can have a devastating effect on their lives and families.

The Right of Appeal to an Independent Source in School Governor Suspensions

School Governing Bodies have the right if need be to remove or suspend governors for certain matters. Suspension can last from one day to six months. The current procedure for suspension is from the dark ages and allows no recourse to an appeal. A governor who is subjected to a motion to suspend must be given seven clear days notice of the motion. At the motion meeting the governor proposing the suspension of another governor must make the case. The governor who is accused must instantly respond with their defence. It is simply a barbaric Star chamber procedure completely at odds with Natural Justice.

Independent School Governors Ombudsman

As the DfE are not capable of investigating complaints sufficiently with regards to school governors, I would suggest as one possibility the establishment of an Independent School Governors Ombudsman.

1. Personal Background to my submission

1. I have been a school chair at a primary school for 11 years. As part of the largest volunteer force in the UK, I have thoroughly enjoyed the journey and will continue to do so with the primary school.

2. Two years ago as a parent of two children at a secondary school that had just come out of special measures and with an IEB in place received a communication by the Chair of the IEB that the school was proposing to Federate with two schools in a neighbouring authority. Knowing that this was unlawful I contacted the dfe in London who confirmed that it was indeed unlawful. I wrote to the chair and the assistant Director of Children’s services to inform them that they must halt the proposal.

3. The assistant Director was however an IEB member of the school. The chair of the IEB was assistant executive of children’s services. I was then called twice by the chair and asked to join the IEB, which I did not. The LA and school proceeded with the proposals and the large cost to the school and were only defeated when it became apparent that over 95% of stakeholders were against.

In investigating a raft of matters in school it was very clear that the IEB members did not know what Integrity and probity looked like and had obviously not heard of Nolan. I have a long list of illegalities that could not be taken anywhere due to the connections of those in the LA and the IEB.

4. The school then did what it should have done by law (instead of attempting to federate) and constitute a formal governing body. I applied for a Parent Governor position with a nomination statement that the school’s IEB completely lacked probity and that I wanted to ensure a return of integrity to the school. Of 16 applications I finished top of the voting with over 100 votes.

5. As I was an anathema to the IEB, my problems began. Five weeks before I was due to take up the position of Parent Governor I was invited to a committee meeting simply as a parent. I was subjected to 30 minutes in a private room of vilification for asking questions on probity in school. At the meeting proper the IEB members gave out and published to IEB members, school staff and other parents a defamatory/libellous letter about me which had absolutely no basis that later ended up at the High Court in London. One IEB member described the contents as nuclear on the evening. The letter had been authored by the executive head from the other schools in the proposed Federation and on behalf of another governing body. The head had no legal basis for authoring the letter.

6. The following day I asked for an apology. I asked numerous times thereafter for an apology, but none came. The case arrived in the high court this year and has only recently been settled when the labour councillor apologised publically. However, lawfully or unlawfully the labour councillors five figure litigation costs have been indemnified by the city council. I of course with no protection have had to pay my own substantial costs.

7. Three weeks after becoming a fully fledged Parent Governor of the school I was attending a committee meeting of the school. At that committee meeting it was alleged that I had sent an anonymous letter of assistance to a applicant for a position in school. I was racially abused and I was suspended on the spot by the vice chair. I left the school and informed the IEB chair that what had just happened was a kangaroo court and that it was totally unlawful. It transpired that it had been decided prior to the meeting by the assistant director of children’s services to suspend me. I was then requested by the chair not to contact any school governance forum’s for assistance.


8. The following day the LA and school realised the horrendous error and decided to put in motion a meeting to suspend me properly. However as most members were at the first meeting they had a major conflict at the second suspension meeting. I was not given prior to that meeting any papers any evidence, and I was not allowed to ask any questions on the evening about the accusation. The Chair brought unlawfully to the motion two LA employees to prosecute matters and one was ejected after 20 mins for trying to stick the boot in.

9. The most senior person at the DFE, gave advice to the members of the “second suspension” meeting that they had a major conflict of interest as they were present at the first unlawful suspension and that the motion to suspend must as the legislation prescribes and be heard by an Independent Governing Body. The Chair rejected the advice of the dfe and stated that it was a quasi-Judicial process and will be run as she saw fit. In the motion hearing I was only allowed to read half of my defence and was constantly interrupted by IEB members. When I left the room for them to deliberate, the remaining LA member introduced other baseless allegations which I could not defend, again something which is completely at odds with natural justice.

10. I was suspended for the maximum period of six months. No discussion took place on the length of the suspension which was decided solely by the chair and which again is unlawful as a full discussion must be had and all options must be discussed.

11. The following day I requested from the chair/vice chair copies of the notes and minutes of the first and second suspensions. I immediately complained to the Dfe’s governance unit at Darlington that I had unlawfully been suspended twice in ten days, and provided them with a plethora of evidence to support this. The chair then responded after some considerable time to the dfe with a catalogue of lies to protect what had gone wrong. The dfe believed the chair and discounted all my evidence.

12. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the Dfe will always come down in favour of a chair at the expense of a fellow governor.

13. The clock on arriving at a just outcome was ticking. I then had no alternative but to launch at my own cost a Judicial Review. I received the second suspension minutes after a long wait of three months, with the chair hoping that I would be out of time to launch a JR with no documentary evidence from the GB. The chair then went on to withhold the vital minutes/notes of the first suspension for 6.5 months, perverting the course of justice with the ICO eventually forcing the City Council to give them up. These vital minutes arrived just in time for the full hearing and illustrated very clearly that an unlawful decision had been made to suspend me prior to any suspension meeting. Judge Pelling QC commented at the high court that the chair had been economical with the truth and that my version of events was indeed correct. In addition and most pertinent the decision to issue a motion to suspend at the second suspension was issued in a lesser time than the required minimum seven clear days.

14. What was clear to all at the Oral hearing some three months before the full hearing was that the School’s Governing body would lose the case. They however decided to continue to the bitter end racking up considerable and unnecessary cost to the school’s and the public’s purse, with no one able to question this.

15. Some months after winning the Judicial Review, I received concrete evidence that I was not the author of the anonymous communication. I sent this evidence to the dfe who commented that I must seek my own legal advice.


16. I made a number of complaints to the chair about the libellous letter, racial abuse and the unlawful suspensions. The chair would not entertain them and sent them bizarrely to the City Solicitor to deal with. He eventually after many months sent them back to me and said I must continue them with the chair who will not proceed with them.

17. Since the libel case and the Judicial Review, I have continued to receive prejudicial and bullying abuse from ex IEB members who still reside and control the school’s GB, such as the chair denying a serious of copies of school minutes to me which is completely unlawful and to which the Dfe at Darlington refuse to do anything about it. In essence there is a massive big black hole in the favour I was pleased that the Dfe via an assistant director of education did comment in writing that had the withheld evidence been presented to them, they would have arrived at a different conclusion. Had the chair not lied, the public purse would have been saved a great deal of money.

18. The chair interfered with the JR, by stating that if I did not drop the JR, I would again be suspended for six months the day after the full hearing. The chair also offered £2,000 for me to drop the case. I reported both of these matters to Judge Pelling during the Judicial Review hearing.

19. The chair has instigated five attempts to get me to resign, a clear course of harassment. My solicitors reaction to me was to inform the chair that the receipt of one further attempt will result in the police being informed.

20. I have had a series of personal emails to the clerk, shared with individuals outside of school, which breaches data protection and ECHR.

21. The clerk to the governors is an indirect employee of the council Children’s services and the chair is as denoted above assistant executive of children’s services.

22. The school governance forums do suggest that the Dfe’s governance department are about as useful as a chocolate teapot in these matters and I am afraid I would have to agree. However, I suspect their team of four or five is too small to deal with and investigate matters such as mine. Indeed they have stated that they don’t really investigate complaints like mine at all. They merely write to the chair only. At one point they asked me to contact others governors to seek evidence on their behalf.

23. Lives can be totally ruined by the bullying that goes on in school governor circles and it is time that appropriate safeguards are put in place to deal with such occurrences. Like male spousal abuse, bullying without recourse goes on in school’s governing bodies. Procedures in place are completely inadequate to protect those who are bullied.

24. Bullying almost inevitably stems from asking legitimate questions of challenge, which is part of a school governors’ remit. Bullying is an abuse of power. Current internal complaints procedures are inadequate. School governors should not have to fear repercussions for challenges to the principles of Nolan.

January 2013

Prepared 2nd July 2013