Many schools have a notice board up in their reception showing pictures of the school governors. Have you ever looked at this and wondered what they do? Or maybe you have read a report from the governors and thought - how much are they paid and could I do the job.
Being a school governor can be a challenging but rewarding job, even if it is voluntary, and if you have the time to spare and are interested in education it is something that is worth considering.
Listed below are the answers to a few common questions about school governors. If you would like more iinformation then you can contact the head teacher at your local school, or the education department at your local council. More information is also avaialble on the GovernorNet website.
What do school governors do?
Being a school governor means being part of a team of up to 21 governors (although smaller schools may have less governors) that includes the head teacher.
Because the power to make decisions or take action belongs to the governing body as a whole no individual governor has the power to make decisions or take action, although some smaller decisions may be delegated to sub-committees dependingon the type of decision and any cost involved.
The governing body must also work in partnership with the headteacher as he/she is responsible for the day-to-day management of the school.
The full governing body meets at least once a term to discuss the running of the school. This would include standards of learning at the school, the use of resources and the overall direction and planning of the school. There are also sub-committees of governors which meet at east once per term to discuss aspects of the school (e.g. curriculum, behaviour, finance) in more detail. Some governors are also appointed to link with particular subjects (e.g. Literacy, Numeracy or Special Educational Needs), particular year groups or even to cover items such as health and safety or property.
How are governors chosen?
There are several types of school governor, the make up of each governing body (and the numbers of each category) depends on the size and type of school:-
- 1. Parent governors:these are elected by parents of the children at the school - or they may be appointed by the governing body if no-one stands for election;
- 2. Community governors: appointed by the governing body (for example they may represent a Parish Council in a village school)
- 3. LEA governors: these are appointed bythe local education authority (LEA). Members of the public can apply to be considered for this role by contacting the LEA directly.
- 4. Foundation governors are only appointed at Church schools by the local Church and/or diocese;
- 5. Staff governors: these are elected by staff at the school and may cover both teaching and non-teaching staff
- 6. The headteacher is a governor at their own school by right.
What qualifications do governors need?
No particular qualifications or experience are needed. The most important qualities for any governor are to be interested in the welfare of the children and the school and to be prepared to give their time and effort when required. Governors are not expected to be experts in education, indeed many governors start by bringing skills relating to the commercial world and learn about the educational side as they go.
Realistically, how much time would be needed to do the work of a governor properly?
The time commitment is not usually excessive, though the responsibilities of a school governor can be considerable. The list below suggests a typical work load:
- 1 governing body meeting per term
- 1 or 2 meetings per term for each committee (e.g. finance, curriculum, personnel, property) on which the governor is a member
- At least 1 visit per year to school during the day
- Possible involvement with staff selection, pupil exclusion reviews or staff dismissal cases
- Reading of agenda and other papers for meetings;
- At least 1 training session per year, often these are held during the evening.
As you can see, this can amount to maybe 9 or 10 meetings per year in the evenings and 1 visit to the school during the day plus time taken to read papers before meetings.
Are governors vetted before appointment?
There are legal restrictions which prevent some people from becoming school governors. Most of these relate to criminal offences resulting in imprisonment or child protection issues. If someone is appointed as a governor, there will be a confidential record check (CRB check) by the school (normally via the LEA) to ensure that they are not covered by the restrictions.
Do governors get paid?
No. They can be considered to be the largest volunteer workforce in the country and are not paid for the time spent on governors activities. However, governors are able to claim expenses for such things as travel the meetings or training sessions and childcare incurred during meetings, if their governing body approves this.
What about time off work to be a governor?
Most meetings are during the evenings. The Law says that an employer must give an employee "reasonable" time off work for governor business, but pay is at the employer's discretion. Many employers actively encourage their people to become governors,because it provides new experience and skills which are useful in many jobs.
How long do governors serve?
Most governors are elected or appointed for four years. However, if they move away or have to resign mid-term, that is not a problem, so although you should think of it as a 4 year job you should not worry if you have to move 2 years into your term.