Why do we have Governors?
The short answer is "because the law says so". In England and Wales state education is provided through the operation of a partnership between central and local government, voluntary interests (e.g. the Churches), school governing bodies, headteachers and the staff.
The law requires each school, or federation of schools, to have a governing body. The governing body is made up of people who represent many interested parties (including parents, teachers, the Local Authority, the Church and the community) and its task is to oversee the running of the school.
Essentially the role of governors is to represent the public in the running of schools, whose quality affects all of us, and to bring to that task fresh perspectives from ordinary life.
The roles and responsibilities of governing bodies
Having a strategic role means the governors decide what they want the school to achieve and set the framework for getting there (the strategic framework). This means:
- Setting appropriate aims and objectives
- Agreeing policies, targets and priorities
- Monitoring and reviewing aims, objectives and evaluating whether the policies, targets and priorities are being achieved.
The main requirements of being a governor are:
- Interest in education and commitment to their school
- Tolerance and ability to work with others
- Patience: everything takes a long time
- Willingness to learn
- Willingness to spend time getting involved in the school
- A strong feeling about doing things openly and democratically
- Enquiring mind – willingness to both support and challenge the school.
It is, indeed, a responsible job and you may feel nervous. Remember, however, that you have been appointed, elected or co-opted by people who had confidence that you could do the job.
Effective schools ensure that positive relationships exist between governors, headteacher and staff. The basis of this relationship is communication, understanding, support and teamwork. It is a good idea for the new governor to show an interest in the things the school is proud of. Shared enthusiasm is a sound basis for partnership.
What is expected of a Governor?
- Support the aims and objectives of the school and safeguard the interests of the school and its students in the wider community
- Support and promote appropriate partnership and collaboration with other schools in the area, the Local Authority and, where applicable, Diocese;
- Work co-operatively with other governors in the best interests of the school and attend meetings of the full governing body and its committees regularly;
- Acknowledge that differences of opinion may arise in discussion of issues, but, when a majority decision of the governing body prevails, it should be accepted. Governors should not dissociate themselves from decisions of the governing body;
- Base your views on matters before the governing body on an impartial assessment of the available facts;
- Take due account of the views of parents, pupils, staff and other interested parties;
- Understand that the day-to-day management of the school and implementation of plans and policies of the governing body is the responsibility of the headteacher and other senior managers of the school;
- Understand that an individual governor has the right to make statements or express opinions on behalf of the governors only when the chair (or vice-chair if the chair is absent) and governing body has given its agreement;
- Be encouraged to feedback information about governing body decisions (but not individual views) to those who elected or appointed them;
- Resist any temptation or outside pressure to use the position of governor to benefit yourself, other individuals or agencies;
- Declare openly and immediately any personal conflict of interest arising from a matter before the governors or from any other aspect of governorship. (Complete a Business Interest form annually);
- Respect the confidentiality of those items of business which the governing body decides from time to time should remain confidential;
- Take or seek opportunities to enhance your effectiveness as a governor, through participation in training and development programmes and by increasing your own knowledge of the school;
- Have regard for your broader responsibilities as a governor of a public institution, including the need to ensure public accountability for the actions of the governing body.