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The Role of Governors

Governors have been described as the largest volunteer army in the land – around 350,000 people.  Their role is a collective one which broadly amounts to overseeing the development of the school.  The governing body has three core functions:

1. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

This is setting the general direction of the school, looking at how you want to develop it.  For example, if the school was consistently achieving poor results in a particular subject, one strategic decision would be to take measures to improve the results which may involve agreeing with the Headteacher to fund extra training for staff or to allocate money for more books or equipment.  Strategic decisions do not only involve the curriculum. They may also concern areas such as behaviour, after school activities or social problems.  Being strategic does not just mean responding to problems or weaknesses.  It may involve the school considering academy status for example or seeking to federate with another school or radically changing the school day.  How a governing body makes these decision is determined by its aims and values which encapsulate what is special about the school and where they want it to go.

2. Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff

The governing body is meant to be supportive of the headteacher, but their second core function is holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils and the performance management of staff. Headteachers are responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of schools. It is their job to implement the strategic framework established together with the Governing Body.

The governing body must be being willing to question and challenge when things do not look right.  This means looking together at positive steps that can be taken to improve things.  The governing body will monitor and oversee school performace and ensure that their decisions are producing the desired results.  Targets will be agreed upon and implemented, then monitored to see if those targets have been met by methods such as making visits to the school to assess progress.

The governing body is accountable to a variety of stakeholders and will use its executive role to make decisions such as appointing a new Headteacher and deciding on appeals against exclusions.

3. Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent

The board’s third core function is to make sure money is well spent. At least one governor with specific, relevant skills and experience of financial matters oversees, however, all governors have a basic understanding of the financial cycle and the legal requirements of the school on accountability and spend.

The governing body will question the relation of money to educational performance to ensure that resources are allocated in line with the school’s strategic priorities and oversee the school's budget forecast for the next three years.

The Structure of the Governing Body

Governors are elected as members of the public and are expected to act with their interests in mind at all times.  Governors represent different stakeholders according to their category:

Parent Governors – these are elected by the parents. Our school currently has 2 parent governors, although one of our other governors is a parent also.
Staff Governors – we have two staff governor positions which are taken by the Headteacher and a member of the teaching staff.
Local Authority Governor – the Local Authority appoints one governor from the community who is interested in the school and wants to help it. This role is currently filled by our Chair of Governors.
Foundation Governors – as a Voluntary Controlled school these governors are appointed by the Church of England (Salisbury Diocese)
Co-opted Governors – people from the local community who have particular skills or interests which are relevant to the school.
Associate Governors – governors from the local community who are appointed by the whole governing body for their particular area of expertise.  They do not have full voting rights, do not attend all meetings and may be only seconded on to a particular committee.

How Governing Bodies Work

Governing bodies work through meetings.  It is only by working as a corporate group that governors can do anything.  No governor has any power on their own.  They are chosen for what they can contribute to the governing body as a whole.  Individual governors can only act on their own if authorised by the governing body to perform a particular task.  Governors do not even have the right to enter a school without the head’s permission.

Meetings

Meetings are where democratic decisions are taken.  Our governing body meets every month on a Wednesday evening, for 2-2½ hours.  The governing body has a Chair and a Vice Chair who are elected by the governing body.  Any governor, other than staff, can fill either of these posts.  The governing body also has a clerk which is a paid position.

We no longer have committees of selected governors meeting separately, but certain governors are responsible for areas such as Curriculum and Staffing, Finance, Premises, SEN & Equality, Publicity, Data, School Structure, Health & Safety (see table on Governors Whos Who page).

In addition to this there are panels which meet separately for particular purposes, e.g. exclusions, pay, redundancies, staff appeals.

The role of the Headteacher

The Headteacher attends all governor meetings.  Much of the governing body’s role involves working with the head to reach decisions.  The head also has a vital function as the main source of information about the school.  The Head liaises regularly with the Chair of Governors as well as reporting fully to the governing body via a written report at each meeting.