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Governing Bodies

Volume 229: debated on Tuesday 27 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for Education from which categories the governing bodies of further education colleges and six-form colleges are obliged to appoint new members; what are the rules about the personal responsibility of members of the governing bodies of such colleges; if members are required to declare interest and whether a register of such interests is open to public inspection; what statutory provisions govern public access to information about a college and its governors' proceedings and for holding public meetings; to which provisions of the citizens charter or specific charters relating to their own activities they are subject; and what performance indicators are in place.

Further education corporations were established on 30 September 1992 to conduct further education and sixth-form collegese. The composition of corporations is set out in their instrument of government, which has been prescribed by statutory instrument—1992 No. 1957 and 1992 No. 1963. New members are appointed as and when vacancies arise following the resignation, or completion of the terms of office, of existing members. The conduct of FE corporations is governed by their instruments and articles of government.Colleges are not required to keep a register of members' interests, but corporation members are required, under the instrument of government, to declare any financial interest in the supply of work or goods to the institution or any contract concerning the institution. They must not take part in any discussions relating to a matter in which they have a financial interest nor may they vote on it. Minutes of corporation meetings are made available for inspection at the institution during normal office hours.Governors will have a part to play in ensuring that their college meets the requirements of the forthcoming charter for further education and develops its own charter within the national framework set.My right hon. Friend has asked the Further Education Funding Council to work with colleges on the development of performance indicators for the sector. At present, colleges collect and use whatever information they think necessary to assist them in assessing their performance. Later this year, the Department will be publishing comparative tables of the academic and vocational achievements of 16 to 18-year-olds in colleges in the further education sector, and colleges themselves will be required to publish comprehensive information on the achievements and career routes of their students.

To ask the Secretary of State for Education what is the current total of grant-maintained schools; what are the rules about the personal responsibility of members of the government bodies of such schools; whether members are required to declare interests; what statutory provision is made for public access to information about a school and the governors' proceedings; what charter provisions apply to their activities; and whether they are subject to performance indicators.

A total of 493 schools have been incorporated as self-governing—grant-maintained—in England to date. A further 170 have been approved to become self governing. Grant-maintained schools in Wales are the responsibility of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales.As in LEA schools, individual governors of self-governing schools are not normally personally liable for actions and decisions of the governing body. However, appeals committees members may be personally liable for the decisions they make. The Department recommends that governing bodies take out insurance against this contingency.Members of governing bodies of self-governing schools are required by their instrument of government to declare any pecuniary interest, direct or indirect, in any matter which is to be considered at a governing body meeting.The articles of government of a self-governing school provide that a copy of each of the instruments and articles of government, the prospectus, the governors' annual report, the audited accounts for the previous school year and non-confidential parts of the minutes of meetings of the governing body must be made available for public inspection.The parents charter makes a number of references to the responsibilities of self-governing schools' governing bodies. These responsibilities are set out in full in the schools' articles of government.Requirements in respect of schools' performance apply equally to self-governing and local education authority-maintained schools.