Registering and/or declaring a conflict of interests

25 Aug

Governors, like all public servants, are subject to the seven principles of the Nolan Committee which are as follows.

  • Selflessness, where governors take decisions solely in terms of pupils’ best interests rather than discussing and making decisions to gain financially or for other material benefit to themselves, their families and their friends.
  • They should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to external individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their duties.
  • In discharging their functions, including appointing other governors and staff and awarding contracts, governors should make choices based on merit.
  • Governors are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public – i.e. the pupils, parents, staff of their schools/academies, local authorities, Ofsted and the DfE, and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate.
  • Governors should be open as much as possible about all the decisions and actions they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands this.
  • Governors have a duty to declare any public interest relating to their duties and take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the interests of all those who work in and benefit from their schools/academies.
  • Governors should promote and support the above (six) principles by leadership and example.

Governors need to guard themselves against a narrow interpretation about conflicts of interests.  The term includes financial as well as broader interests.  Where a governor is the director of a building company, he/she will declare an interest where any building project is put out to tender.  It is equally important for governors (including the headteacher/principal) to declare interests where relatives can gain materially through the governing body’s decision-making process.   In such cases the governors must declare these interests and withdraw from the discussion and decision-making process.

The law requires that where there is a conflict of interest but a governor is not declaring it, that the other members of the governing body may by vote debar that governor from participating in the discussion and decision-making process of that issue.

A conflict of interest may arise if the governors have been involved in a case that comes up for arbitration.  This has happened on several occasions in the governing bodies I serve.  In one case, all the governors’ positions had been prejudiced by their involvement in the earlier disciplinary stages of this staff member requiring me, as clerk, to seek governors of other schools to serve on the both, the disciplinary and appeal panels.

It is now a statutory requirement for governors to publish their Register of Interests on the school’s/academy’s website. (See II above.) In addition, at every meeting, governors are under a legal obligation to declare their interests in items of the meeting from which they could benefit unfairly.

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