What do school governors do?
All governing boards, whether in the maintained or academy sector and no matter how many schools they are responsible for, have three core functions.
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
- Holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils, and the performance management of staff
- Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
Governors work with the Headteacher and senior leadership team to drive the strategic development of the school and to raise standards of achievement. Duties include setting the school’s vision, aims and objectives, approving the school budget and appointing the Headteacher. Governors are there to provide oversight and accountability: they don’t get involved in the day to day management of the school.
See “What do Governors do?” for more information. Governors must have the necessary skills and/or experience to be able to support and challenge the Headteacher, and need to gain an understanding of the school’s overall performance in order to explain its decisions and actions. Legally, governing boards are corporate boards, so responsibility and the power to take action and make decisions lies with the board as a whole, not its individual members - governors work as a team and make collective decisions.
The governing board should have an ethos of high expectations of everyone in the school community, including high expectations for behaviour, progress and attainment of all pupils and for the conduct and professionalism of both staff and governors.
Governors need to be committed; have the inquisitiveness to question and analyse; and the willingness to learn. They need good inter-personal skills, an appropriate level of literacy and be sufficiently numerate to understand basic data.
What skills do I need?
All governing boards can benefit from expertise and experience in analysing data; budgeting; driving financial efficiency and performance management of staff and other employment issues. However, relevant skills may include important personal attributes, qualities and capabilities, such as the ability and willingness to learn and develop new skills.
The ability to work constructively within a committee structure is essential and willingness to chair meetings and provide leadership is welcomed.
All governors should:
- be prepared to contribute to discussions and offer challenge and support to the Headteacher, but be sensitive to the pressures under which they work
- have an interest in education and the welfare of children
- be willing to learn and attend relevant training
- have good interpersonal, teamwork and communication skills
- have a respect for confidentiality
- be committed to equality of opportunity
- be willing to fulfil their role with energy and enthusiasm and be able to commit to attend governors’ meetings regularly.
What is the time commitment?
Governing boards usually meet together once or twice a term. Most governing boards also have committees with a particular focus for example, Resources (finance, staffing and buildings), Achievement (pupil progress, attainment etc). If you do have a particular expertise, this is where your skills could be of use.
You may also volunteer to work alongside a member of staff who has a specific responsibility, for example, safeguarding or special educational needs and disability.
The time commitment varies between governors and schools, but you can expect to spend around six to eight hours per month on your duties.
Governors need to know their school if accountability is going to be robust and their vision for the school is to be achieved. Many governors find that visiting, particularly during the day, is a helpful way to find out more about the school. Through pre-arranged visits that have a clear focus, governors can see for themselves whether the school is implementing their policies and improvement plans and how they are working in practice. Visits also provide an opportunity to talk with pupils, staff and parents to gather their views, though are unlikely to be sufficient for these purposes.
Governors are not inspectors and it is not their role to assess the quality or method of teaching or extent of learning. They are also not school managers and should make sure they do not interfere in the day-to-day running of the school. Both are the role of the Headteacher. If governors wish to spend time within a classroom, they need to be very clear why they are doing so.
Is training provided?
Lambeth Governor Services provides a telephone advice line and regular written briefings and guidance for governors, Headteachers and clerks, along with a comprehensive central training and development programme. Training is available locally and governors are provided with information and advice to support them in their work.
There are also termly briefing meetings for chairs of governing boards; clerks and training and skills meetings on national and local developments. The training and development programme is informed by training and skills governors.
What’s in it for me?
You will gain some valuable experiences that will have an impact on your personal and professional life. You will meet new people, develop teamwork skills and learn more about how schools work. You could gain experience of budget setting, interviewing for staff or developing policies. If you eventually become a chair of governors, we provide support and training to develop your leadership skills and confidence.
Above all, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that you have made a real difference to the development of children, young people, the school and the local community.
A diverse governing board
We are keen to ensure that the membership of our governing boards reflects the diversity of Lambeth’s population and particularly welcome applications from black and minority ethnic backgrounds.
Time off work
By law, employers must give employees who are school governors in maintained schools ‘reasonable time off’ to carry out their duties. The employee and employer must agree on what is ‘reasonable time off’. Employers may give time off with pay but do not have to do so. For further information please see Time off work for public duties.