Becoming a Governor
School governors are people who want to make a positive contribution to children’s education. It is an immensely rewarding role that allows you to be involved in raising standards within school.
You don't have to be an expert on education to be a school governor but you will need to commit time and take part in regular training. Before applying to become a governor, it is important that you understand the role. This document is designed to provide further information but if you have any questions about the role, please do ask before you apply.
What do school governing bodies do?
School governors form the largest volunteer force in the country. Governing bodies provide strategic leadership in schools and have a vital role to play in making sure every child gets the best possible education. Governing bodies operate like non-executive boards, focussing on three core strategic functions, namely setting the vision and values of the school; holding the headteacher to account for educational performance; and managing the school's budget.
The governing body has a strategic role not an operational one. The headteacher is responsible for the day-to-day management of the school (operational) and the headteacher and staff are responsible for implementing plans and policies established by the governing body. The role of governor is largely a thinking and questioning role, not a doing role. Understanding this distinction is important before you become a governor.
A governing body acts as a single person with an identity separate from its members. Responsibility for the actions and decisions of the governing body lies with the whole governing body rather than individual members. This is known as corporate responsibility. Governors must never carry out a duty in the name of the governing body without the consent of the governing body. Governing bodies must act as a group/corporate body. Individual governors have no power outside the governing body and cannot act on behalf of the governing body unless authorised to do so or, in special cases, where emergency action is needed (chair of governors).
Much of the work of a governing body is conducted in meetings. As almost all of the powers and responsibilities of governing bodies are held collectively, the governing body has to meet to make its decisions. Whilst the atmosphere within meetings is relatively relaxed, governing body meetings are business-like meetings considering important issues which impact upon a large number of pupils, staff and how public money is spent.
Due to the vast array of duties that governing bodies have, we often use powers of delegation to distribute the workload to ensure matters are dealt with appropriately, for example to a working group which makes recommendations or to an individual who will report back to the full governing body. We seek to involve those who have skills or interests in a particular area of school life (for example, finance, staffing or curriculum) in those issues.
What do individual school governors do?
All governors must:
• Act with integrity, objectivity and honesty and in the best interests of the school; and
• Be transparent about the decisions they make and the actions they take (and in particular be prepared to explain their decisions and actions to interested parties).
Decisions are taken in the interests of the school as a whole, i.e. all pupils at the school, being careful to distinguish this from your own personal interests, if any, for example as a parent. Parents should not apply for this role if they feel they have an issue, for example an issue with their child, that needs to be settled with the school (the governing body is not the correct route for this; such matters are dealt with in school by appropriate school staff using specific agreed procedures).
Governors need to observe principles of confidentiality and therefore take care regarding playground or social media discussions about the school. Occasionally a governor may find that he/she is outvoted by the rest of the governing body; all governors are expected to stand by decisions of the governing body even if their own personal view was to the contrary.
Support and Challenge
- Ensure accountability by asking the difficult questions and guaranteeing the school is responsible for its actions.
- A champion of success by using your skills and experience to support the school in achieving its aims and recognising good performance.
Providing strategic Management
- Establish a strategic framework by helping to set the school’s aims and objectives.
- Monitor and evaluate progress by analysing decisions: are they producing the desired results?
Making Executive Decisions
- Allocate and control the school budget which ranges from ensuring appropriate staff training takes place to investing in new buildings or equipment.
- Appoint senior staff including the responsibility of appointing a new Principal or Vice-Principal.
The ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’
It is vital from the outset as a potential new governor that you understand all governors are public volunteers and as such are subject to the same Nolan Principles on public life as Councillors and MPs. The Nolan Committee rules are known as the ‘Seven Principles of Public Life’, as set out below:
Selflessness: Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
Integrity: Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
Objectivity: In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Accountability: Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Openness: Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands this.
Honesty: Holders of public office have to declare any public interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Leadership: Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
What skills and commitment are needed?
As a governor you are expected to:
• Have a real interest in education and developing positive outcomes for all children.
• Get to know the school: its needs, strengths and areas for development.
• Prepare for and attend meetings (we hold nine full governing body meetings per academic year, plus occasional working groups).
• Actively contribute as a member of a team.
• Speak, act and vote in the best interests of the school.
• Use your personal and professional skills to support the school.
• Respect all governing body decisions and to support them in public.
• Act within the framework of the policies of the governing body and legal requirements.
• Observe and follow the governing body’s code of conduct and confidentiality requirements.
• Commit to training and development opportunities.
What does the role involve?
• Attend meetings in the evenings at school for two to two and a half hours, (our meetings are usually held on a Wednesday commencing at 6.30pm).
• Read background documents before those meetings.
• Have a key area of responsibility (as a “link governor”).
• Visit the school, usually once per term, in that link governor role.
• Attend other school events such as assemblies, school fairs and curriculum evenings.
• Attend regular mandatory training.
Governors are expected to contribute to the three key roles of the governing body:
(a) 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; and
• the principles to be used by school leaders to set other school policies.
(b) Hold senior leaders to account by monitoring the school’s performance:
• 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 and feedback provided on request by school leaders and external sources on all aspects of school performance;
• asking challenging questions of school leaders;
• ensuring senior leaders have arranged for the required audits to be carried out and receive the results of those audits;
• 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, making relevant enquiries of the relevant staff, and reporting to the governing body on the progress on the relevant school priority; and
• listening to and reporting to the school’s stakeholders : pupils, parents, staff, and the wider community.
(c) Ensuring finances are properly managed:
• The school’s finances are sustainable during uncertain funding and political times;
• Staff have the resources they require to do their jobs well;
• External advice is taken where necessary;
• Effective performance management is in place;
• Appropriate CPD (Continuing Professional Development) is offered; and
• Premises are maintained.
Governors may be asked to undertake other checks such as to:
• appoint the headteacher and other senior leaders;
• appraise the headteacher;
• agree the pay recommendations for other staff;
• hear the second stage of staff grievances and disciplinary matters; and
• hear appeals about pupil exclusions.
Governors do not:
• Write school policies by themselves, though they will be involved in forming policy working with members of staff and other governors;
• Undertake audits in the school, even if they have relevant professional experience;
• Undertake classroom observations to make judgements on the quality of teaching (the quality of teaching is monitored by requiring data from senior leaders and by reviewing external reports and data sources);
• Spend significant time working with pupils of the school (governors do see pupils, for example in assembly and on link visits as well as during pupil voice, but if you want to work directly with children there are other voluntary valuable roles within the school to do so);
• Fundraise - the governing body does consider income streams and the potential for income generation but it does not carry out fundraising; or
• Do the work of staff (if there is insufficient resource then the governing body needs to address that), though governors may undertake additional volunteering roles over and above governance.
Initially, you should expect to spend the equivalent of around 8 to 10 days per year (15 to 25 hours a term) on your governing body responsibilities. For many governors, this might comprise three evening meetings per term, with the pre-reading; one link visit and writing a resulting short report; attending a school event such as an assembly; reading around their link subject or keeping up to date on school governance; and responding to some emails.
Time off work
School governors are like magistrates or members of a jury and therefore have a right to reasonable time off work for their public duties. Under Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, if you are employed then you are entitled to "reasonable time off" to undertake public duties (including school governance). "Reasonable time off" is not defined in law and so you will need to speak to your employer's HR department or negotiate with your employer how much time you will be allowed. This time may be unpaid.
Being a school governor is an unpaid role. Governors may receive out of pocket expenses in line with the governor expenses policy. Payments can cover incidental expenses, such as travel, but not loss of earnings.
All governors are expected to undertake training to support them in their role. Governors do not pay for training. All new governors at Boughton Heath Academy are asked to undertake face to face induction training within the first four weeks of becoming a governor plus safeguarding training within the first six months. There is then a broad expectation that governors will undertake training course as appropriate. All governors are automatically registered for the National Governance Association Learning Link virtual training to enable governors to have flexibility in the time when they chose to undertake training.
Different types of governor
Governing bodies have representatives of school staff, parents and members of the community. Despite representing different groups, all governors have exactly the same role and voting rights. If you are confused by any of the terminology please ask so that we can explain in more detail and help you understand your role.