Governors, from time to time will be involved in discussions where very personal and sensitive information is exchanged. At other times, when the governing body is making decision about the finances of the school, perhaps commercially sensitive information is discussed. Because of the sensitivities involved, these kinds of discussions are regarded as confidential and any members of the public or representatives of the press who may be present at the meeting will be asked to leave.
On other occasions, perhaps a parent or other member of the community may give governors information which is relevant to the work of the governing body on the understanding that it will not be repeated. i.e. The information is given 'in confidence'. It is essential to the personal reputation and credibility of each governor that the rule of confidentiality is not abused, unless it is about a child protection issue. This applies whenever information is given in confidence and wherever the information is received eg in the playground, the street, or during the meeting of the governing body.
In a meeting governors may be privileged to receive information about parents, pupils, members of staff or even the headteacher. The information is given only because it is necessary to do the work as a governors. For example, when considering pupils with additional educational needs, the pupil concerned will not by identified by name in order to maintain confidentiality. Governors must never repeat information received in confidence in a governors' meeting to others in the community (including friends and members of your family). Equally, information given confidentially outside the meeting must not be brought into discussion during the meeting.
If governors break this rule of confidentiality, ones personal reputation in the community, ones standing as a governor, the status of the governing body and of governors generally, are all likely to be seriously damaged. Governors may be suspended from the governing body for a period of up to six months, or removed from the governing body. Elected governors cannot be removed but they can be suspended.
The only circumstances when a breach of confidentiality is justified arises when a governor of a school receives information in confidence outside a meeting, which suggests that a pupil is at risk of physical, sexual or other abuse of some kind. Child protection matters cannot be kept confidential and must be reported to the statutory authority i.e. the police or social services. However, if a problem of this kind arises, governors must seek the advice of the chairperson or head teacher as soon as possible before breaching the confidence.