Every state school has a governing body which governs the school in partnership with the Headteacher. The role of the governing body is to raise school standards through the three key roles of:
1) setting strategic direction
2) ensuring accountability
3) monitoring and evaluating school performance.
Headteachers are responsible for the day-to-day running of the school, including the management of the staff. School governors are one part of a partnership, which includes parents, pupils, the staff, the local authority, the foundation if appropriate, and the government. Each of these contribute in different a way, supported by a legal framework that sets out their roles and responsibilities.
The responsibilities of school governors include the following:
- To promote a high standard of educational attainment
- To set targets for pupil achievement
- To take general responsibility for the running of the school
- To manage the school's budget, including numbers of staff and their pay
- To ensure that the curriculum is balanced and broadly based, and particularly that the National Curriculum and religious education are taught
- To report on pupils' achievement in National Curriculum assessments and examination results
- To participate in the appointment of senior staff (including the head teacher)
- To regulate staff conduct and discipline
- To draw up an action plan after an (OFSTED) inspection
Who can be a school governor? School governors are people from the school’s community and area who wish to make a positive contribution to children’s education. They are not education experts, and no formal qualifications are required. A good governing body has people from different backgrounds and with a mix of skills. Governors must be aged 18 or over at the date of their election or appointment and there is no upper age limit.
How do I become a governor? Contact your local school to ask if they need new governors. Your local authority (LA) will assist you in finding a school or advise you on opportunities to become an LA governor. If you are a parent - ask your child’s school about elections for parent governors. Schools and local Diocesan authorities will be able to tell you about opportunities as community governors and foundation governors respectively. The School Governors’ One-Stop Shop (SGOSS) recruits governors. Further information from http://www.sgoss.org.uk/
Are all governing bodies the same? There are several different types of school and the membership, responsibilities and powers of their governing bodies vary. Most of the differences are to do with how the school was established, who owns the school premises and who employs the staff.
Most schools will be one of the following types:
Academies are publicly funded independent schools. Academies do not have to follow the national curriculum and can set their own term times. They still have to follow the same rules on admissions, special educational needs and exclusions as other state schools. Academies get money direct from the government, not the local council. They’re run by an academy trust which employs the staff. Some academies have sponsors such as businesses, universities, other schools, faith groups or voluntary groups. Sponsors are responsible for improving the performance of their schools.
Community and community special schools Before academies, most schools in the country awere in this category. The school will have been set up by the LA to serve the needs of the local community. The buildings and land are owned or leased by the LA. All staff of the school, both teaching and non-teaching, are employed by the LA.
Voluntary controlled schools Schools in this category were established by a foundation, usually a church. They provide the same range of education as community schools but also reflect the ethos of the foundation that established them. The premises are held on trust by the foundation and the LA employs the staff.
Voluntary aided schools These schools were also established by a foundation, often a church. They provide the same range of education as community schools but reflect the ethos or religious nature of the foundation that established them. The governing body sets out its own admissions policy, and, because of the nature of the school, children may come from a wider area than the immediate local community. The premises of the school are held on trust by a foundation, often religious. The governing body has additional responsibilities for the upkeep of the buildings and employs the staff of the school, both teaching and non-teaching.
Foundation or foundation special schools In these, the premises are held on trust by a foundation or a specially constituted ‘foundation body’. The governing body has the responsibility for employing the staff and for admissions.
Assessing Pupils' Progress
Community cohesion in action
Introducing the new Primary Curriculum
The 21st century school
The make-up of the governing body of each of these type of schools is different. You will find full details in A Guide to the Law for School Governors, which is published by the DCSF. Governors are normally elected or appointed for a period of four years. These are the main types of governors in LA schools:
Parent governors You will normally be a parent with a child at the school and have been elected by the parents of children at the school. Once elected as a parent governor you may complete your term of office even if your child is no longer at the school.
Staff governors All teachers at a school are eligible for election as a staff governor by fellow members of staff. The headteacher is also automatically a staff governor. Staff governors can also be elected from the school’s paid support staff.
LA governors If you are an LA governor you will have been appointed by the LA that is responsible for your school. In some areas of the country these are political appointments linked to political representation on the local council.
Co-opted governors If you are a co-opted governor you will have been invited to join the governing body by your fellow governors. You will probably be a member of the local community and may well have business, financial or legal knowledge and skills that will be very useful to your fellow governors.
Foundation governors As a foundation governor you will have been appointed by the foundation or foundation body — often a church — which set up your school. Only voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and foundation schools have foundation governors.
Partnership governors You may be the governor of a foundation school or a foundation special school that doesn’t have either a foundation body or trustees — for example, a former grant-maintained school.
Sponsor governors If you are a sponsor governor you will have been appointed by the governing body in recognition of substantial services or financial assistance you have given the school.
Associate members As an associate member you will have been appointed to the Governing Body or a committee to provide a particular expertise. You will not having voting rights on the full Governing Body.
Your role as a member of the governing body
Firstly, remember that you are part of a team. As in any team, different members take on different roles and responsibilities. You will have been elected, or appointed to your governing body as a representative of a group of people. This means that you will perform your duties in a way that you feel represents the views of this group. Whenever the governing body makes decisions and acts upon them, it does so as a corporate body. This means that separate members do not have any individual powers.
There are two types of responsibility for governors — corporate and delegated. As a member of the team, you contribute to the decisions made by the governing body and the actions put in place to carry out these decisions. This is the meaning of the term corporate responsibility. In some cases, so that the governing body can carry out its duties efficiently, certain decisions can be delegated to a committee of governors, to pair of governors or to an individual governor. They then act on behalf of the whole governing body, assuming delegated responsibility.
As a governing body you have a general duty to ask for advice from your headteacher on all matters relating to the management of your school. In addition there are some specific areas, including the curriculum, staffing and pupil discipline, on which you are required by law to consult with the headteacher. The head is accountable to you as a governing body for the management of the school and will regularly give you both written and verbal reports to keep you informed of progress. A range of information will be provided for you in the headteacher’s report, which you will receive before every full governing body meeting.
Specific governor roles Although you will be involved in the whole range of responsibilities of the governing body, you may wish to take on a particular role according to your interest and experience. These might include:
- Health and Safety
- Special Educational Needs
- Early Years
Many governing bodies are changing the way in which they work, in order to take on a more streamlined strategic role.
Resources for governors
- National Governors' Association The NGA is the representative body for school governors in England.
- School Governors' One Stop Shop Works with local authorities all across England to find and place volunteers in schools where they are needed most.
- Governance Handbook