Could You Be A School Governor?
Governors are one of the largest volunteer forces in the country and have an important part to play in raising school standards. The role of the governing board is absolutely key to the effectiveness of a school. Time and time again Ofsted (the national inspection body for schools) has noted that the most effective schools demonstrate effective leadership and management-including by the governing board.
School governors provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools. Governors appoint the head teacher and help to appoint other teachers in the school. It is the governors who hold the main responsibility for finance in schools and who work with the head teacher to make the tough decisions about balancing resources. Each individual governor is a member of a governing board, which is established in law as a corporate body. Individual governors may not act independently of the rest of the governing board; decisions are the joint responsibility of the governing board.
The role of the governing board is a strategic one, its key functions are to:
- set the school's vision, ethos and strategic direction;
- set the aims and objectives for the school;
- set the policies for achieving those aims and objectives;
- set the targets for achieving those aims and objectives;
- monitor and evaluate the progress the school is making towards achievement of its aims and objectives;
- be a source to challenge and support the head teacher.
What do governors do?
As part of the governing body team, a governor is expected to:
1. Contribute to the strategic discussions at governing body meetings which determine:
- the vision and ethos of the school;
- clear and ambitious strategic priorities and targets for the school;
- that all children, including those with special educational needs, have access to a broad and balanced curriculum;
- the school's budget, including the expenditure of the pupil premium allocation;
- the school's staffing structure and key staffing policies.
2. Hold the senior leaders to account by monitoring the school's performance. This includes:
- agreeing the outcomes from the school's self-evaluation and ensuring they are used to inform the priorities in the school development plan;
- considering all relevant data on all aspects of school performance;
- asking challenging questions of school leaders;
- ensuring senior leaders have developed the required policies and procedures, and the school is operating effectively according to those policies.
- acting as a link governor on a specific issue and reporting to the governing body on the progress on the relevant school priority.
3. When required, serve on panels of governors to:
- appoint the head teacher and other senior leaders;
- appraise the head teacher;
- set the head teacher's pay and agree pay recommendations for other staff;
- hear the second stage of staff grievances and disciplinary matters;
- hear appeals about pupils exclusions.
The role of governor is largely a thinking and questioning role, not a doing role.
A governor does not:
- write school policies;
- undertake audits of any sort-whether financial or health and safety-even if the governor has the relevant professional experience;
- spend much time with the pupils of the school;
- fundraise-this is the role of the PTA;
- undertake classroom observations to make judgements on the quality of teaching; or
- do the job of the school staff.
As you become more experienced as a governor, there are other roles you could volunteer for which would increase your degree of involvement and level of responsibility e.g. chair of the committee.
A governor is expected to:
- get to know the school, including visiting the school occasionally during school hours, gaining a good understanding of the school's strengths and weaknesses;
- attend induction training and regular relevant training and development events;
- attend meetings (full governing body meetings and committee meetings) and read all the papers before the meetings;
- act in the best interests of all pupils of the school; and
- behave in a professional manner, as set down in the governing body's code of conduct, including acting in strict confidence.
What skills do governors need?
No formal qualifications are necessary, but schools are keen to attract people in the community who can bring energy, experience and fresh ideas. The ability to communicate in English is very important. Some people who would make very good governors may be put off because they think you need to be an expert. Not so-interest, enthusiasm and commitment are much more important.
Who is eligible?
Anyone over the age of 18 can become a school governor, with a few exceptions. All applicants are subject to checks to ensure the safety and protection of the young people in schools. You don't have to have a child at a school to become a school governor.
Being a governor can be rewarding.
Despite the fact that governors are volunteers they can get a great deal from the work and time they contribute. It provides them with the opportunity to:
- make a difference to how well schools are run;
- see how their efforts help raise standards;
- do something positive for the next generation;
- serve the local community;
- help realise their own potential by utilising existing skills and learning new skills.
Schools are part of the community that they serve-providing a focal point for improving life chances for adults too. Everyone has something to offer their local school. However, governors find that they gain alot as well-meeting new people, gaining new skills and most importantly the knowledge that they are helping to improve educational standards for children and young people in the area. Many employers encourage staff to become school governors. They realise that the skills gained from being a governor are transferable to the workplace.
How much of your time is needed?
Governing bodies meet at least once a term, usually after school or in the early evening. In addition, governors need to attend committee meetings, school events and appropriate training. Governors are encouraged to visit the school during the day to see it in action, get to know the staff and pupils. Governors usually serve for a a period of four years.
What support will you receive?
Support, training and guidance is available from your school and the LA's School Governor Service.
If you're interested in becoming a School Governor, contact:
- Clare Gratton, the head teacher at Langwith Bassett School;
- the School Governor Service, who will be able to help you find a school or advise you on the schools in your area with vacancies;
- visit: www.derbyshire.gov.uk/governors;
- email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or
- telephone (01629) 535769.