Each Warwickshire school has a governing board whose role is to represent the public in the running of the school. They work closely with the head teacher in thinking strategically about how to raise the standards of achievement of all pupils in the school.
Governing boards work within a legal framework and must act as a corporate body, although they have a lot of freedom in deciding exactly how they carry out their responsibilities. They must also act with integrity, objectivity and honesty and in the best interests of the school.
In the Governance Handbook, the DfE describes the focus that governing boards in all types of school should have three core strategic functions.
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
- Holding the executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff
- Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.
These functions are set out in regulations for maintained schools but are equally relevant in academies.
Governing boards have to monitor and evaluate progress towards the school’s priorities and targets, support the head and staff as well as challenging their expectations. Governors must account to all stakeholders for the school’s overall performance and for the decisions they have made. They do not run the school from day to day.
The head teacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and for advising on and implementing the governing board’s strategic framework. Headteachers draw up aims, policies, targets and plans for the governing board to consider adopting.
All governors are expected to visit the school to see how it operates and become familiar with staff and procedures. They will also attend meetings, full governing board meetings and perhaps a committee meeting e.g. resources/pupils and curriculum. During the meetings, governors will be expected to ask questions and discuss topics after having read the associated papers and documents.
In addition to this governors may be asked to take on the responsibility of a “link governor” and have a special responsibility assigned to them, such as SEN or health and safety.
Governors are also expected to attend training courses, either online or by booking onto one of the training events arranged by Governor Services to support them in their role.
No one governor is expected to know everything as the strength of a governing board lies in its ability to attract and rely upon members from a wide variety of backgrounds. All duties/responsibilities are shared amongst the members of the governing board and, as a group, decisions are made and acted on.
What skills do you need to become a governor?
Governors need to:
- have the commitment and the desire to secure the best possible education for all young people
- have time to read papers, attend meetings and visit the school
- act with fairness, tact, diplomacy and integrity
- have good interpersonal skills and be able to work as a team
- be able to analyse, interpret, question, make judgements and take decisions
- be confidential and honest
- be committed to participating in training, development and self-evaluation.
Schools need governors (whether parents or not) with experience of life, although governing boards may also look for governors with experience in areas such as finance or business.
How much time is involved?
Being a governor does require a time commitment to attending meetings, visiting the school and for undertaking training.
Governing boards have the freedom to organise their own structure but governors should expect to be involved in:
- attendance at full governing board and committee meetings
- prior reading of papers and the preparation of questions before meetings
- visits to school
- special projects
- staff recruitment
- panel meetings e.g. complaints/attendance
- reviewing policies and the school’s budget.
What support is available to me?
Warwickshire Governor Services offers training, support and advice to all governors from induction through to chairing the governing board.
All governors work as a team and they receive support from each other and in particular from the chair of the governing board, the clerk to the governing board and the head teacher.
As a new governor, the chair, clerk and perhaps training link governor will support all new colleagues in their role and governing boards are expected to have an induction process for all governors. This may include a visit to the school, a meeting with the head teacher and important/key documents for reading.
Why should I become a school/academy governor?
Here are some reasons to become a governor. . . .
- Making a positive difference to the life chances of children and young people
- Having a sense of purpose and knowing that you are helping schools and pupils
- Developing new and transferable skills
- Getting to know the community and in some cases, the satisfaction of giving something back to the community
- Making new friends and colleagues.