What are Governors?
In the Department for Education Governance Handbook 2020, school governance is described as:
“never more critical to the education of our nation's young people" and "The governance duty is, above all, to drive relentless ambition for the young people served by our schools system, whatever the circumstances."
“More than ever we also need diverse boards ... volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives, that better reflect the communities they serve."
As volunteers we are involved in governance because we “want to give something back to the community, using the skills [we] have acquired in [our] professional careers and putting them to good use", but being a governor is also about “learning new skills and obtaining wider knowledge.”
What do Governors do?
The purpose of governance is to provide confident and strong strategic leadership which leads to robust accountability, oversight and assurance for educational and financial performance (Governance Handbook 2020). Governors are strategic leaders of schools and have a vital role to play in making sure every child gets the best possible education. For maintained schools, such as Patcham Infant School, this is reflected in law. They carry out their duties under a legally constituted Instrument of Government and regulations stipulated by various Acts of Parliament and agree to abide by a code of conduct that includes acting according to the Nolan principles.
In all types of schools, governing bodies have a strong focus on three core strategic functions:
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic function
- Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils and the performance management of its staff
- Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
Governors are unpaid volunteers that play an important part in overseeing the running of the school in the interests of the community it serves but the responsibility for the day-to-day management of the school is with the headteacher and staff. Individual governors have no authority whatsoever; such powers as they have are vested in the governing body as a whole and their decisions are recorded and made available for anyone to see. They give direction and focus, drawing on other stakeholder views to assist their work.
Governors appoint the headteacher and assist with the appointment of the senior leadership team and then work with them. They also support the headteacher by providing a friendly forum within which to discuss ideas, problems and opportunities. Together making decisions about:
- Standards - ensuring a strategic and systematic approach to promoting high standards of educational achievement
- Curriculum - ensuring this is broad and balanced and supporting the school in making sure pupils are enriched with a wider cultural experience
- Policies - deciding how, in broad strategic terms the school should be run
- Finance - determining how best to spend the budget allocated to the school to maximise outcomes for pupils
- Staffing - deciding the staff structure and pay policy
- Discipline - agreeing procedures for staff and pupil conduct and discipline.
How are we organised?
Until April 2017 the governing body met four times a year and delegated some of its powers to committees. To better align their work with the school improvement plan, speed decision making and reduce duplication of effort, the governing body re-organised its working and disbanded the full-time committees, although retained the option to form a committee to make decisions under the pay policy. The full governing body now meets at least twice a term. At least one meeting each term includes a focus on finance and another on attainment and progress of pupils. No governor has individual delegated powers; however, all have links, for example to areas of school improvement, curriculum, policies or priority areas and the link governors make reports to the governing body.