1 A guide for prospective School Governors in Surrey What governing bodies do and what being a governor involves
2 Introduction 3 Why people become governors 4 Why schools have governing bodies 4 The qualities of an effective governor 5 What governing bodies do 5 How governing bodies go about their work 6 The membership of a governing body 6 Support for governors 10 How to become a governor 10 Contact information 11
3 Introduction If you are reading this, then it is possible that you are thinking about becoming a school governor. This is an important decision for you, for the governing body and for the school and one that you will need to consider carefully. Being a governor is not easy, but it is important, interesting and satisfying. The Government requires that each school has a management team, a governing body. This team is made up of the various stakeholders that the school serves - parents, local authority, staff, community and dioceses. Governors are either elected or appointed, e.g. Parent Governors are elected from the parent body; the Local Authority (LA) appoints Local Authority Governors; the governing body appoints Community/Co-opted Governors. Schools need enthusiastic and committed people to volunteer to become governors. Being a governor gives you the opportunity to express your views, to listen to the views of others representing the school and its community and to influence pupils education for the better. As a school governor you would be part of a team - the governing body. The governing body has a range of important responsibilities. For example, governors work in partnership with school staff to shape the future of the school, to decide the key issues that will help staff to raise standards and to determine how the school will best spend its money to achieve these aims. Governors do not require qualifications, just the desire to make a positive contribution, show interest, and time - probably a couple of evenings a month - and the opportunity to visit the school at work during the school day from time to time. This guide aims to help you make an informed decision about becoming a governor by explaining what governing bodies do and what being a governor involves. If you would like to talk to someone about becoming a governor, you can contact your local school and ask to be put in contact with the chair of governors.
4 Why people become governors Everyone has their own reasons for becoming a governor. Some are asked. Others seek to join because they have a deep commitment to excellent and improving education in their local school. Many, having made the commitment, find the work is interesting and rewarding. Being a governor gives them the opportunity to contribute to the effective running of the school, do something important for the next generation and give something back to their local community. Governors have the opportunity to develop new skills as well as making good use of existing ones by chairing meetings, debating, asking questions, making Why schools have governing bodies People who would be effective governors can be put off by the time and responsibility involved. The formality of meetings and their lack of knowledge of the school education system can also be deterrents. Time: while it is possible to be a governor and commit little time to the work, being an effective governor does take time; for meetings, to get to know the school well and to develop knowledge and understanding of the work of the governing body and the school. A fair estimate of a governor s time commitment would be ten hours a term. Most of this time is in the evening, when meetings are usually held. Courses for governors are provided free by Babcock 4S for schools that buy into a governance service level agreement and are held during the day and in the evening. Governors should also make an effort to visit the school when teaching and learning is taking place - during the day. If you really don t have any spare time at the moment, then you probably would be making a mistake in becoming a governor. Responsibility: governing bodies have important and complex responsibilities. However, the governing body is corporate; the power is shared amongst all the school s governors, and not with individual governors. Governing bodies are supported by their school s managers against errors of judgement, providing they take appropriate advice and act in good faith. Lack of knowledge of how schools work and the education system in general is another reason why people are sometimes reluctant to become governors. This should not be seen as an obstacle. The head and the staff of the school are experts in education. A minority of members of the governing body will also know about education or have a detailed knowledge of aspects of the school because they work there. However, most governors are not educational experts. What all governors bring to the important decisions that the governing body has to make are their life experiences and understanding from their different perspectives. Governors make a very important contribution to robust decision-making in the school.
5 The qualities of an effective governor The common characteristics of effective governing bodies are shared commitment, good teamwork with each other and with school staff, and broad community representation through their members. With the wide range of educational knowledge and skills of school staff and the professional support for all areas of the school s work readily available, schools also need other and complementary qualities from their governors. It is not necessary to be an education expert or to have some professional skill. Rather, the main requirements are a genuine interest in education, commitment to the school, some available time and a willingness to be a good team member. What governing bodies do Education in schools has changed dramatically in the last two decades. These changes have transformed the role and work of governing bodies. They now have key responsibilities for setting their school s aims and policies, deciding how money will be spent, managing the employment of staff, and the maintenance and development of the premises. Most important of all, they have an important role in the main purpose of their school - ensuring that its pupils receive the best possible education. The governing body works in partnership with the headteacher, staff, parents and the LA to raise standards of achievement in the school. As a governor you will be part of this team, led by the Chairman of Governors. The main functions of the governing body are to: provide a Strategic View act as a Critical Friend ensure Accountability. Effective governing bodies work in close partnership with the headteacher in making decisions. The head, not the governing body, is responsible for the day-to- day leadership and management of the school. The responsibilities of the governing body are defined in law. They are predominantly strategic and include: being accountable for the performance of the school;; planning the future direction of the school;; promoting high standards of educational attainment;; setting targets for pupil achievement;;
6 taking general responsibility for the conduct of the school;; managing the school s budget, including key staffing decisions; making sure the curriculum is balanced, broadly based and complies with legal requirements; making sure that the school provides for all its pupils, including those with special educational needs; in church schools, foundation governors are expected to help preserve and develop the school s Christian character. How governing bodies go about their work The governing body s formal work and decision-making is undertaken in meetings. Their considerable workload is managed by delegating some tasks to committees or other small groups. Committees specialise in one of a number of areas, typically curriculum, finance, staff and premises matters. An increasing number of governing bodies also have a school improvement group of governors and staff who provide a focus for the drive to raise academic standards. All governors are expected to attend meetings of the full governing body. Indeed, the fact that they are now required to give reasons for non-attendance underlines the importance of attendance. There is a statutory requirement for the governing body to meet three times per year. Additionally, governors will usually be expected to belong to a committee. Committees usually also have two meetings each term. For meetings to be effective you need to prepare by reading minutes and papers relevant to the agenda. There will also be policy documents that you need to familiarise yourself with in order to understand the work of the school. The membership of a governing body PARENT GOVERNORS Parents (including carers) of registered pupils at the school are eligible to stand for election for parent governorship at the school. In the case of MNS, any parent (or carer) of a child who is making use of the service provided by the nursery is eligible to stand for election for parent governorship at the school. Parent governors are elected by other parents at the school. If insufficient parents stand for election, the governing body can appoint parent governors. Parent is defined for the purposes of the Constitution Regulations as including any individual who has or has had parental responsibility for, or cares or has cared for, a child or young person under the age of 18. It includes a person who the child lives with and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the
7 child. The reference in the definition must be to someone involved in the full-time care of the child on a settled basis. For community, community special and VC schools, and MNS, the Local Authority (LA) has the responsibility for arranging the elections, though it can delegate this to the head teacher. For foundation, foundation special and VA schools, the governing body has the responsibility for arranging the elections, though the governing body can agree with the LA for it to make the arrangements (again, the LA can delegate to the head teacher). Schools must make every reasonable effort to fill parent governor vacancies through elections. If insufficient parents stand for election the governing body can appoint: a parent of a registered pupil at the school, or if that is not reasonably practicable;; a parent of a former pupil at the school, or if that is not reasonably practicable;; a parent of a child of, or under, compulsory school age. This also applies to community special schools and foundation special schools, but for these schools the appointment criteria are: a parent of a registered pupil at the school, or if that is not reasonably practicable;; a parent of a former pupil at the school, or if that is not reasonably practicable;; a parent of a child of or under compulsory school age with special educational needs for which the school is approved, or if that is not reasonably practicable ;; a parent with experience of educating a child with special educational needs. A person is disqualified from election or appointment as a parent governor of a school if they are an elected member of the LA, or if they work at the school for more than 500 hours in any consecutive 12-month period (at the time of election or appointment). If a serving parent governor subsequently starts to work at the school for more than 500 hours in a consecutive 12-month period, they would serve out their term of office.
8 STAFF GOVERNORS Both teaching and support staff paid to work at the school are eligible for staff governorship. Staff governors are elected by the school staff and must be paid to work at the school volunteers are ineligible. Any election that is contested must be held by ballot. At least one staff governor (in addition to the head teacher) must be a teacher, but if no teacher stands for election, a member of the support staff can be elected to take that place. If a governing body has three or more staff governor places, at least one staff governor must be a member of the support staff, but if no member of the support staff stands for election, a teacher can be elected to take that place. The head teacher is a member of the governing body by virtue of their office and counts in the member of the staff category. If the head teacher decides not to be a governor, he or she must inform the clerk of that decision in writing. The head teacher s place remains reserved for him or her and cannot be taken by anyone else. School staff that are eligible for election as staff governors (i.e. who are paid to work at the school) are not eligible to serve as Local Education Authority (LEA) governors or community governors at their school. If they are paid to work at the school for more than 500 hours in any consecutive 12-month period they are not eligible for election or appointment as parent governors. However, staff can vote in parent governor elections if they are parents. They can also be governors at other schools. Their employment status will not affect their qualification for governorships in these categories at another school. LOCAL AUTHORITY (LA) GOVERNORS Authority governors are appointed by the LA. LAs can appoint any eligible person as an authority governor. A person is disqualified from appointment as an authority governor if they are eligible to be a staff governor of the school. COMMUNITY/CO-OPTED GOVERNORS Community governors are appointed by the governing body to represent community interests. Community governors can be people who live or work in the community served by the school, or people who do not work or live close to the school but are committed to the good governance and success of the school. In community special schools and foundation special schools, the governing body must appoint as one of the community governors a person (if any) nominated by one or more voluntary organisations designated by the LA. If the school is based in a hospital, the community governor must be nominated by one or more primary care trusts, the National Health Service (NHS) trust or NHS foundation trust.
9 A person is disqualified from appointment as a community governor if he or she is eligible to be a staff governor at the school, or is an elected member of the LA to which the school belongs. FOUNDATION AND PARTNERSHIP GOVERNORS Foundation governors are appointed by the school s founding body, church or other organisation named in the school s instrument of government. They may hold their governorship in an ex officio capacity if they are the holder of an office specified in the instrument of government, for example a parish priest. If the school has a religious character the foundation governors must preserve and develop this. They must also ensure compliance with the trust deed, if there is one. If there is more than one body that has the right to appoint foundation governors, the instrument of government specifies the bodies concerned and the basis on which appointments are made. If the school has no foundation or equivalent body, the foundation governors are replaced by partnership governors appointed by the governing body after a nomination process. The governing body must ask parents of registered pupils at the school, and others in the community it considers appropriate (for example, staff, community organisations and other local bodies), to provide nominations for partnership governors. Parents of registered pupils at the school, staff eligible to be staff governors, elected members of the LA and those employed by the LA in connection with education functions are not eligible to be partnership governors. SPONSOR GOVERNORS Sponsor governors are appointed by the governing body. It is at the governing body s discretion whether they choose to appoint sponsor governors or not. If the governing body wants to appoint one or more sponsor governors, it must seek nominations from the sponsor(s). The sponsor can be someone who gives substantial assistance to the school, financially or in kind, or who provides services to the school. The governing body can appoint a maximum of two persons as sponsor governors, or where the school is a secondary school, up to four sponsor governors. ASSOCIATE MEMBERS The governing body can appoint associate members to serve on one or more governing body committees and attend full governing body meetings. The definition of associate member is wide and pupils, school staff and people who want to contribute specifically on issues related to their area of expertise (for instance, finance) can be appointed as associate members.
10 Associate members are appointed as members of any committees established by the governing body. They are appointed for a period of between one and four years and can be reappointed at the end of their term of office. Associate members are not governors and they are not recorded in the instrument of government. As a governor you will be appointed for a term of up to four years. You can, of course, resign during that time or continue beyond the four years. It is a privilege to be a part of a child s education, and a tremendous responsibility as you will be a role model in the school community. You will be a member of a team that is constantly looking to raise standards of achievement and you will increasingly enjoy your place alongside your colleagues, the staff and pupils. As a school governor you will contribute towards making a difference in your local community. Support for governors Employment law gives governors the right to reasonable unpaid time off. Some employers give paid leave for governor duties. Many employers, appreciating that the skills required of a school governor are transferable to the workplace, encourage their staff to become school governors. Governing bodies can decide to refund expenses, for example the cost of a carer for dependent relatives while a governor attends meetings. Governors are also entitled to attend the courses that Babcock 4S provides. Babcock 4S support governing bodies and individual governors and to provide: a comprehensive range of courses, including a series of courses for new governors; a monthly governors update and other publications from time to time;; helpline and website. For church schools, additional courses and support are normally provided by the diocese in which the school is located. You may wish to find out more about the courses offered to governors. Details can be found on our website - How to become a governor All parents and staff will be informed if there is a vacancy in these categories. They will be invited to apply and told how to do so. If there is a vacancy for a foundation governor, your local school or church may have advertised the vacancy and explained how to apply. The clerk to the governing body of community or voluntary controlled school in which you are interested in becoming a governor will be able to let you know of vacancies for community governors - and, indeed, of existing or upcoming vacancies for all types of governors.
11 If you are interested in becoming a foundation governor in a church school then the diocese may be able to help. If you are interested in becoming a governor, but have an area rather than a specific school in mind, the Governance team will be able to help. Babcock 4S Governance Consultancy Team Steve Barker, Interim Governance Consultancy Manager Steve leads the Governance Team in supporting governors and clerks to improve outcomes for children and young people, through ensuring effective governance in all Surrey schools. Steve has many years' governance experience across all phases of education and currently chairs three governing bodies. Steve's role is to ensure that the governance team are equipped and able to support highly effective governance in Surrey schools ext Janice Beach, Training Co-ordinator Janice's main responsibility is to co-ordinate the governor training programme and organise whole governing body training. Janice can help with general enquiries concerning governor training and development ext Sue Boustead, Senior Consultant, Governance Leadership Sue's main responsibility is to lead on a strategic overview for governance and to support Surrey governors in delivering their main objective of raising standards in Surrey schools. She is happy to work with governors in developing their practices or working with them to resolve issues ext Keren Clifford, Database Administrator Keren's role is to maintain the governors database and ensure that it is up to date, sending out new governor/clerk packs and liaising with clerks re constitutional information. She is also responsible for the processing of Instruments of Government and changes to school names and receiving of the full governing body minutes ext Carole Ford, Clerking Co-ordinator Carole's main responsibilities are to administer the Clerking Service SLAs and to provide advice and support to clerks in all schools ext Elaina Taylor, Training Administrator Elaina's role is to ensure the smooth running and administration of the generic governor training programme and work alongside the Training Co-ordinator. Elaina can assist with course bookings and course enquiries and all other aspects of governor training ext