A Beginner's Guide to Being a School Governor Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

A Beginner's Guide to Being a School Governor

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This information applies to schools in England and Wales.

Governors are an increasingly important part of life in schools. There are a variety of reasons why people become governors including:

  • Wanting to play an active role in the community
  • Wanting to have a positive influence on children's education
  • Wanting to have something worthwhile on your CV
  • Wanting to put something back into school life
  • Being press-ganged

However you look at it, being a school governor is an important job that will get you little thanks, no financial reward and at times a lot of hassle but it is very rewarding and worth the time and effort invested.

The governing body is made up of different types of governors.

  • Parent Governors – elected as representatives of parents with children at the school.

  • Local Education Governors - governors appointed by the Local Education Authority.

  • Community Governors - governors appointed by the governing body to represent the local community.

  • Staff Governors - both teaching and non-teaching staff can be appointed to represent the whole school staff.

  • Foundation Governors - appointed by the founding body of the school (eg, the local diocese would appoint the Foundation governors for a Church of England school.

  • Sponsor Governors - appointed by the governing body when it is felt that these governors have specific skills they can bring to the school (for example financial skills that could be of use).

The actual size and composition of the governing body depends on the type of school. A parent must be elected while their child is a pupil at the school but can continue with a term of office after the child has left if they wish.

What Do Governors Do?

The everyday priorities of the school change from year to year but the long-term focus does not. The role of the governing body is to ensure that the school has high expectations, develops good relationships, challenges complacency and provides a practical policy framework within which the school can operate. They can try to do this through an annual cycle of work that gives structure to meetings and the work that they need to achieve.

Powers and Duties

  • Agreeing targets for key stages two, three and four - these are Standard Attainment Tests that children sit at 11 and 14 and GCSEs that are done at 16.

  • Managing the school budget.

  • Ensuring the curriculum is balanced and covers the National Curriculum and Religious Education.

  • Reporting the National Curriculum results to parents.

  • Appointment of headteacher, deputy and agreeing how other staff are to be appointed, managed and disciplined.

  • Conducting performance management for the headteacher and ensuring that the process is in place for performance management to take place with the other staff.

  • Managing the Special Educational Needs provision.

  • Drawing up the Action plan after an OFSTED inspection.

Monitoring how the school works is also a key role of the governing body. This is done by reports back to a full governors' meeting from members of staff and governing working parties.

By law there should be one meeting per school term but in practice the workload is such that a lot of schools have two. Governors are also required to produce an annual report for parents and to follow that up with an annual meeting for parents. As well as these meetings there are committees and working parties that can meet at different times. Some meet regularly and others only when the need arises (for example, matters of discipline). Different schools will organise these committees and working parties differently. Below are some examples committees:

  • Pay policy committee - agreeing and approving pay awards.

  • Pay policy appeals committee - to meet if the decision of the pay committee is disputed.

  • Finance committee - to discuss and monitor the school budget and other financial issues.

  • Pupil discipline committee – to deal with matters of pupil discipline (exclusion) as and when necessary.

  • Pupil appeals committee - to meet if the decision of the pupil discipline committee is disputed.

  • Staff dismissal committee - to deal with matters of staff discipline as and when necessary.

  • Staff dismissal appeals committee - to meet if the decision of the staff discipline committee is disputed.

  • Admission committee - to review pupil admissions arrangements (the powers of schools to choose their admissions varies depending on the type of school).

  • Performance management committee - to agree the targets for the headteacher to work at during the year.

  • Health and Safety Committee - to discuss and review the school premises and Health and Safety issues, making appropriate recommendations to the governing body.

  • Curriculum Committee – to discuss and review the school curriculum, making appropriate recommendations to the governing body.

Informally, each governor can also have an area of the curriculum (eg, science, maths, art etc) that they pay special attention to. For example, being involved in subject reviews and reporting back to the governing body and governor's visits to the school. There are also training courses available for school governors to attend.

Much more could be said about what governors do – if you are interested contact your Local Education Authority, local schools or try the School Governors' One-Stop Shop.

What Makes a Good School Governor?

  • The desire to help children get the best possible education – not just good grades but an education for life (there is more to school than League Tables).

  • The time to get involved.

  • The ability to bring a different perspective.

  • A willingness to ask questions – even when they seem too obvious.

  • A willingness to listen.

  • A willingness to work in a team.

  • A sense of humour.

  • A sense of commitment to the role of governor and the school.

To sum up – there is a national shortage of school governors; there are many of you out there who have so much to offer schools and as a result can have a positive influence on children today. Don't just sit on the sidelines and moan about 'kids of today' and 'when I was at school...', go out and do something positive about it!

To be a school governor you need to have a criminal record check, and certain people are excluded from becoming a governor (anyone banned from working with children for example).

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