A good governing body is vital to a school’s success. But why?

An effective governing body is vital to a school's success.  Governors have three roles to fulfil:

  • Strategic - setting the general direction of the school and how it is to be developed, making key decisions like appointing the Headteacher
  • Critical Friend - to support the work of the Headteacher but be willing to question and challenge when the need arises, making a difference in improving standards throughout a school.
  • Accountability and the executive role - the governing body is accountable to a variety of 'Stakeholders' in the school, and at times will exercise executive powers.

Who can be a governor?

  • Anybody over the age of 18, with the following exceptions (click on the link below)

Link to list disqualification criteria

 

Do I need qualifications to be a school governor?

No. Schools need volunteers (whether parents or not) with experience of life, but some governors may have qualifications or professional skills.

I work full-time. Will I still have time to be a school governor?

  • Many school governors are in full-time work. But governors’ meetings can take place during the working day and, very often, during the evenings. 
  • Check carefully the number of meetings you would be expected to attend and when they usually take place. Also bear in mind that you might want to spend time getting to know the school in other ways and joining its activities.

What will I get out of being a school governor?

  • The knowledge that you have played a part in improving children’s education and supported the school’s staff.
  • A chance to develop new skills and to practise existing ones, such as chairing meetings, speaking in groups, asking questions, making suggestions and appointing staff.
  • A chance to help other members of the team, perhaps because they are new, are not used to committee work or need help in learning about the school and about school governance.

What makes a good school governor?

  • You care about improving children’s educational attainment.
  • You want to contribute to the local community.
  • You can work corporately and value the contributions of other people who may hold alternative views to your own.  You also understand the concept of corporate decision making.
  • You accept you might need training.
  • You are willing to ask questions.
  • You are open to ideas and willing to learn.

What can I offer?

  • Enthusiasm and commitment.
  • If you are a parent, your own understanding of other parents’ concerns, but you don’t need to be a parent to be a good school governor.
  • Whether you are a parent or not, as a member of the school’s community your local knowledge will be valuable: you will have a feel for what is important to people.
  • If you happen to have business or other skills, schools might find these particularly helpful. 

What do school governors do?

School governors:

  • promote high standards of educational attainment;
    set targets for pupil achievement;
  • take general responsibility for the conduct of the school;
  • manage the school’s budget, including deciding how many staff will work there and their pay;
  • make sure that the curriculum is balanced and broadly based, in particular that the National Curriculum and religious education are taught, and report on pupils’ achievement in National Curriculum assessments and examination results; 
  • participate in the appointment of senior staff (including appointing the head teacher) and regulate staff conduct and discipline; and 
  • draw up an action plan after an inspection by the Office for Standards in Education (OFSTED).in action

Who sits on a governing body?

Governing bodies are made up of:

  • parents elected by other parents with children at the school;
  • the head teacher, if the head teacher chooses to be;
  • teachers elected by other teachers;
  • non-teaching staff elected by other non-teaching staff;
  • people appointed by the local authority;
  • people chosen by governors from the local community; and
    in church and some other types of school, people appointed by the church or foundation.

How does a governing body work?

A governing body:

  • works closely with the head teacher;
  • makes decisions collectively as a team;
  • often delegates decision making to committees or to individuals, for example, to the head teacher; and 
  • conducts most of its business through meetings, making use of relevant papers and guidance, and advice from the head teacher.

How much time does it take?

Governors act as a team and, as such, the amount of time that each of them can give to the role will vary.  Some people will be able and willing to give a lot throughout their time as a governor. Others will find that the amount of time they can give increases or reduces during that period. But if you are serious about helping your school to help children, then you do need to: 

  • be willing to prepare for meetings: there can be a lot of papers to read; 
  • attend meetings: the governing body must meet at least once a term, but you probably will be asked to serve on at least one committee. How often this meets will vary, but it is not unusual for one committee to meet each half-term;
  • be able to get to meetings which, quite often, will be during the evening but which may be early or during the day (see below on the reimbursement of expenses);
  • participate. If you cannot prepare for, and attend, meetings you will not be able to help the school effectively.

But what if I incur costs, like childcare?

Governing bodies are allowed to refund costs, for example, the cost of a carer for dependent relatives while you attend meetings.

 

How do I become a school governor?

You can become a school governor by:

  • being elected by parents as a parent governor, if your child attends the school; 
  • being elected by the teaching or non-teaching staff, if you are a member of the teaching or non-teaching staff;
  • being appointed by the local authority;
  • being appointed by the church or charitable trust; or by
  • being co-opted (that is, appointed) by the other governors.

To become a governor, you will need to ensure that those who have a vote, or who appoint people, know about your interest.

  • Schools organise elections and tell parents and staff about them.  But you can always ask a school whether there are vacancies now that need to be filled.  
  • You can approach a school to see whether they might co-opt you.
  • You can ask the local authority, church or foundation if they would appoint you.

What if my employer won’t give me time off?

Employment law gives people the right to reasonable unpaid time off and some employers give paid leave for school governor duties.  Many employers actually encourage their staff to become school governors.  They realise that the skills gained through being a school governor are transferable to the workplace.

 

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