Governing bodies are legally required to meet at least three times a year but most governing bodies meet twice per term, which is six times over a full year. Governing body meetings usually last between 2 and 2.5 hours. The agenda and supporting papers should have been sent out to all members of the governing body at least seven days before the meeting. It is the responsibility of individual governors to make sure that they read the agenda and any supporting papers before the meeting.
School governors provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools. Governors appoint the head teacher and deputy headteacher. In some schools the site is owned by the governing body. It is governors who hold the main responsibility for finance in schools, and it is governors who work with the headteacher to make the tough decisions about balancing resources.
Responsibility for the school should be shared with a variety of views brought to the task. The responsibilities sound heavy but individual governors do not carry them, individual governors may not act independently, decisions are the joint responsibility of the governing body. The Governing Body as a whole is accountable for all decisions taken by the Governing Body or any of its committees. Advice, support and training are available to all governing bodies from the local authority and other sources.
The role of the governing body is a strategic one, its key functions are to:
- set the aims and objectives for the school
- set the policies for achieving those aims and objectives
- set the targets for achieving those aims and objectives
- monitor and evaluate the progress the school is making towards achievement of its aims and objectives
- be a source of challenge and support to the headteacher (a critical friend)
The headteacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and the implementation of the strategic framework established by the governing body.
When you become a school governor you receive a 'welcome pack' from the local authority. The pack includes copies of newsletters, relevant Governor Information Bulletins and information that is of relevance to all governors. The clerk to the governing body will provide information that is specific to the school.
The Department for Education also produces a 'School Governors' Guide to the Law' which is available free to all governors (the clerk will provide you with a copy). It is also available on the DFE: School Governance . It gives an outline of the powers and duties of the governing body.
Most governing bodies have a number of committees made up of at least three governors. The number of committees and what each one deals with varies from school to school. Although a lot of our schools are now working to just 2 committees Finance and Resources and Standards and Effectiveness which incorporate all areas, some other examples of committees are Finance, Staffing (or Personnel), Curriculum, Health and Safety, Parents and Community, Premises, etc. In this way, the work of governing bodies is broken down into manageable parts.
You should expect to be asked to join at least one committee. To be an effective governor you should be prepared to play a regular and active role in committee activity. The terms of reference of committees are tasks and responsibilities delegated by the governing body. You may want to find out how often they meet in your school. It is usually once or twice a term for most committees.
Sometimes the governing body may also set up working groups to look at particular topics. You may also be asked to be part of a committee investigating a complaint or considering the exclusion of a pupil. These types of committee generally are not required to meet very often. Committees and working groups should meet at times that are convenient to most of their members. Governing bodies are encouraged to plan a programme of meetings in advance. However, most meetings are held in the evenings, but they may be held in the daytime if all or most members of the committee are available.
If you were appointed to a staffing or personnel committee you may become involved with the appointment of staff; both teaching and support staff and sometimes heads and deputies. This is quite time consuming. If you are involved in interviewing there are likely to be meetings to confirm or review the job description, shortlist and interview candidates.
The majority of our schools also have link governors – linked to a particular area. Although not a statutory requirement this is good practice and in Calderdale our recommended links are: Special Educational Needs (SEN)/Inclusion (which incorporates gifted and talented), Children Looked After, Safeguarding, Health and Safety and Governor Development. At least 2 and preferably 3 headteacher performance management governors are also required.
The Chair and Vice Chair of the governing body are elected in accordance with the terms of office agreed by the governing body. This may be for one year and up to four years.
It is important that governors are seen to support the school so you are likely to be invited to attend events like school concerts, plays, fairs, and so on. Many schools also have a policy for governor visits.
Employers should give employees who are school governors 'reasonable time off' to carry out their duties. What is 'reasonable time off' should be agreed with your employer. This may or may not be with pay.
Calderdale and One Education (One Governor Calderdale) to offer a wide programme of training and support for governors for more information see our Training and Development page.
When you become a governor you are a representative not a delegate. For instance, if appointed as a Local Authority governor, or elected as a parent governor, this means that you cannot be instructed by the Local Authority or parents to take a particular view.
Most new governors will need some time to get to grips with their role and nobody will expect you to know about all the issues that come up. You should expect to be able to ask questions, and get answers, from other governors and from the headteacher.