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Being a school governor is a challenging but rewarding role. It gives people the chance to make a real difference to young people, give something back to their local community and use and develop their skills in a board-level environment.
Schools need governing boards that have a balance and diversity of knowledge, skills and experience to enable it to be effective. Ofsted (the national inspection body for schools) has repeatedly noted that the most effective schools demonstrate effective leadership and management – which includes the governing board.
A governing board has three core functions:
- Ensure clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
- Hold executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff;
- Oversee the financial performance of the organisation and make sure its money is well spent.
To fulfil these roles, governors are appointed and elected to provide:
- Strong links between the school and the community it serves
- A wide experience of the outside world
- Skills that support the school to achieve its goals
- An independent view
- Support for the Headteacher and staff
- A visible form of accountability for the headteacher and staff of the school
- A team focusing on long term development and improvement
- Accountability to the community for the use of resources and the standards of teaching and learning in the school
There are no formal qualifications required to become a school governor; however all governors need to be able to offer the following skills and qualities:
- Time & commitment (see work-load below)
- A willingness to listen and learn
- The ability to assimilate information, make judgements and take decisions
- Flexibility & tact
- The ability to work as part of a team
- Such professional skills and qualifications as they may have to support the achievement of the educational, business, corporate governance and legal requirements placed upon the school
- The ability to express views openly within meetings
All governors are appointed or elected for a four-year term.
Governors may be appointed for a further period of four years, but generally governors will not serve for more than two terms of office. Parent governors must have a child registered at the school at the start of their term of office. All governors, once appointed, share responsibilities, work as a team to achieve the governing board goals and accept collective responsibility for all decisions made.
The Russell School has 12 governing board members elected, nominated or directly appointed currently in the following proportions:
- Parent governors (4) – nominated and elected by the parents
- Governors from the staff:
- Head-teacher (1)
- Teacher/staff governor (1) – nominated and elected by the teaching staff
- Other governors:
- Co-opted governors (5) – nominated and elected by the governing board
- County council representatives (1) – appointed by the Local Authority
The full governing board meets nine times over the course of each academic year to cover education, finance, health and safety and personnel.
Most meetings take place in the evenings. In addition, there are four sub-committees:
- Pay and Personnel and Headteacher’s Performance Appraisal meet annually at set times, and
- Complaints panel and Disciplinary/Exclusions panel which meet as and when necessary.
Governors should expect to spend at least 30 hours each academic year attending meetings, reading papers, visiting school, attending training courses and writing reports. It is understood that governors also have their own roles and responsibilities, however all governors are expected to be available sometimes during the school day and in the evenings.
All governors are expected to:
- Attend the full governing board meetings (held usually in the evenings, at 6.30pm)
- Be a member of working parties or committees as needed and attend meetings (daytime or evening)
- Work as a member of the governing board (not as an individual) and act in the best interests of the school
- Show an interest in school activities
- Become well-informed about education in general and about the school
- Be a link governor for an area of the curriculum
- Visit the school during the school day on occasions, and attend school events (e.g. parents’ evenings and open meetings)
- Become familiar with and adhere to the rules of school governance
- Attend training courses
- Maintain full confidentiality
Individual governors will usually be involved in some of the following activities, usually through working groups or committees:
- Staff appointments & pay
- The financial management of the school
- Upkeep and renewal of the school’s buildings and facilities
- Curriculum development
- Special educational needs
- Policy review
- Pupil & staff discipline
- Head teacher performance management
- Communication within and outside the school community.