WHAT ARE THE ROLES AND RESPONSIBLITIES OF A SCHOOL GOVERNING BODY?
What is the role of the Governing Body?
Governors have been described as the largest volunteer army in the land – around 350,000 people. Their role is a collective one which broadly amounts to overseeing the development of the school. This might involve allocating budget to particular areas, deciding on the staffing levels or agreeing measures to be taken to improve results for a particular subject. Governors are not responsible for the day-to-day running of the school. This is the responsibility of the Headteacher and other staff.
The governing body has three particular roles:
This is setting the general direction of the school, looking at how you want to develop it. For example, if the school was consistently achieving poor results in a particular subject, one strategic decision would be to take measures to improve the results which may involve agreeing with the Headteacher to fund extra training for staff or to allocate money for more books or equipment. Strategic decisions do not only involve the curriculum. They may also concern areas such as behaviour, after school activities or social problems. Being strategic does not just mean responding to problems or weaknesses. It may involve the school considering academy status for example or seeking to federate with another school or radically changing the school day. How a governing body makes these decision is determined by its aims and values which encapsulate what is special about the school and where they want it to go.
The governing body is meant to be supportive of the Headteacher. The Headteacher has a right to expect the governing body to be generally sympathetic, to be there to hear about difficulties and to unite in developing the school as they have agreed.
The critical friend role means being willing to question and challenge when things do not look right. This means looking together at positive steps that can be taken to improve things. Critical friendship requires trust and mutual respect. In order to act as a critical friend the governing body has to have ways of monitoring or keeping an eye on things and seeing whether decisions are producing the desired results. Some of the strategic decisions will involve setting targets. Monitoring means then asking to see if those targets have been met. Making visits to the school is also a good way of assessing progress.
The governing body is accountable to a variety of stakeholders and will use its executive role to make decisions such as appointing a new Headteacher, deciding on appeals against exclusions. Governors are elected as members of the public and are expected to act with their interests in mind at all times. Governors represent different stakeholders according to their category:
Parent Governor – these are elected by the parents. The school has 5 parent governors
Staff Governors – there are two staff governor positions which are currently taken by the Headteacher and a member of the teaching staff
Local Authority Governors – the Local Authority appoints one governor from the community who is interested in the school and wants to help it
Foundation Governors – as a Voluntary Controlled school we have three governors who are appointed by the Church of England (Salisbury Diocese)
Co-opted Governors – these are people from the local community who have particular skills or interests which are relevant to the school.
Associate Governor – these are governors usually from the local community who are appointed by the whole governing body for their particular area of expertise. They do have full voting rights and may be seconded on to a particular committee.
How governing bodies work
Governing bodies work through meetings. It is only by working as a corporate group that governors can do anything. No governor has any power on their own. They are chosen for what they can contribute to the governing body as a whole. Individual governors can only act on their own if authorised by the governing body to perform a particular task. Governors do not even have the right to enter a school without the head’s permission.
Conduct of meetings
Meetings are where democratic decisions are taken. Each governing body must meet at least three times a year. Our governing body meets six times a year (once each new term), in the evenings, usually for around 2 to 2 ½ hours. The governing body must have a Chair and a Vice Chair who are elected at the final meeting of the academic year in readiness for the start of the new year. Any governor, other than staff, can fill either of these posts. The governing body also has a clerk.
The governing body is responsible for many areas of activity and cannot cover all of them in a few hours so there are two committees:
Curriculum and Staffing
Finance and Premises
These committees also meet six times a year. In addition to this there are panels which meet for particular purposes, e.g. exclusions, pay, redundancies. Each committee has terms of reference which set out its areas of responsibility and each committee reports back to the full governing body to ensure that all governors are aware of decisions made at committee level.
The role of the Headteacher
The Headteacher attends all governor meetings. Much of the governing body’s role involves working with the head to reach decisions. The head also has a vital function as the main source of information about the school. The Head liaises regularly with the Chair of Governors as well as reporting fully to the governing body via a written report at each meeting.
The responsibilities of governing bodies
The main aim of a governing body should be to endeavour to raise the school’s standards
Standards means not only academic achievement but all the things that go into making well-rounded and confident individuals.
The curriculum covers all the things that go into the education that the pupils receive in the school. The aim is to have ‘a broad and balanced curriculum’. The largest part of the curriculum is covered by the National Curriculum. This determines what subjects must be taught at what stage of schooling. All schools have to follow its provisions, and governors are responsible for ensuring that the National Curriculum is taught in their school. In primary schools they have particular responsibility for seeing that literacy and Numeracy are taught. An important responsibility is monitoring achievements at the end of the key stages. Governing bodies are involved in setting targets for performance of their schools at the end of Key Stage 2. The targets will be proposed by the Headteacher but approved by the governing body. Governors will also look after Special Educational Needs. This involves ensuring that the requirements of pupils who have learning, emotional or physical needs are being met by the school.
Governing bodies play a key role in the appointment of a new Headteacher whereas the appointment of other staff is delegated to the Head but governors will often still be involved in the process. In addition, all schools have performance management. Governing bodies have to draw up a policy for the way that teaching staff will be appraised by the head and a separate panel of governors will appraise the performance of the head in an annual review.
Most decisions affecting the development of the school involve finance. The funding system of schools is complex. Each Spring the school will receive its funding statement. It will then draw up a budget which will be discussed and approved by the finance committee and the full governing body. Once set, the budget is closely monitored by the finance committee.
The finance committee is also responsible for decisions over buildings. With increased delegation the school has taken on greater responsibility for maintaining the building. The majority of decisions over repairs and maintenance are taken by the school.
4. Health and Safety
The governing body is responsible for ensuring that all activities are safe. Whilst school staff are responsible for carrying out the necessary checks it is the responsibility of the governing body to monitor these and ensure that they are taking place. They should also be satisfied that staff are familiar with routines for reporting problems or accidents.