What is a governing body?
A school's governing body is a corporate body. This means it has a legal existence separate from that of its individual members. Governors are drawn from the local community and are volunteers that are committed to the school and its aspirations for every pupil to achieve their full potential
What is the role of the governing body?
The Governing Body acts collectively as a group. They have a range of duties and powers and a general responsibility for the conduct of the School. The Governance role is strategic and the governing body concentrate on matters related to strategy and school improvement. Operational tasks such as drafting policies, making judgements about the quality of teaching and recruiting and deploying staff are delegated to the school leaders. The agenda of governing bodies is driven by their strategic planning cycle.
The governing body has three core functions:
Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of staff
The first function is strategic.
The governing body is responsible for the strategic management of the school. The governing body decides what they want the school to achieve, they do this by agreeing a framework with targets, and agreeing policies, in consultation with the head teacher. The governing body then monitors and evaluates the implementation and effectiveness of the framework and policies.
The second is challenge.
It is important that governors ask relevant but probing questions. They examine the performance of the children in the school, and give praise where it is good and seek ways of making improvements when expectations are not achieved.
Thirdly, governors must ensure accountability.
For example, if a task is delegated to a committee, the terms of reference for the group must be clearly set. Governors must evaluate themselves and the actions they take.
The Department for Education (DFE) defines the role of governing bodies in the Governor's Handbook.
In all types of schools, governing bodies should have a strong focus on the core strategic function:
Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
Holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils.
Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
It defines that effective governance is based on six key features:
Strategic leadership that sets and champions vision, ethos and strategy.
Accountability that drives up educational standards and financial performance.
People with the right skills, experience, qualities and capacity.
Structures that reinforce clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
Compliance with statutory and contractual requirements.
Evaluation to monitor and improve the quality and impact of governance
In the School Governance Regulations the Department for Education explains that the purpose of the governing body is to:
Help the school to set high standards by planning for the school's future and setting targets for school improvement.
Keep the pressure up on school improvement.
Be a critical friend to the school, offering support and advice.
Make the school accountable to the public for what it does.
Work with the school on planning, developing policies and keeping the school under review.
Exercise its responsibilities and powers in partnership with the Headteacher.
Not intervene in the day-to-day management of the school.
As part of the governing body team, a governor is expected to contribute to the strategic discussions at governing body meetings which determine:
• the vision and ethos of the school;
• clear and ambitious strategic priorities and targets for the school;
• that all children, including those with special educational needs, have access to a broad and balanced curriculum;
• the school’s budget, including the expenditure of the pupil premium allocation;
• the school’s key staffing policies;
• the principles to be used by school leaders to set other school policies.
Hold the senior leaders to account by monitoring the school’s performance; this includes:
• agreeing the outcomes from the school’s self-evaluation and ensuring they are used to inform the priorities in the school development plan;
• considering all relevant data and feedback provided on request by school leaders and external sources on all aspects of school performance;
• asking challenging questions of school leaders;
• ensuring senior leaders have arranged for the required audits to be carried out and receiving the results of those audits;
• ensuring senior leaders have developed the required policies and procedures and the school is operating effectively according to those policies;
• acting as a link governor on a specific issue, making relevant enquiries of the relevant staff, and reporting to the governing body on the progress on the relevant school priority;
Ensure the school staff have the resources and support they require to do their jobs well:
This includes the necessary expertise on business management, external advice where necessary, effective appraisal and CPD (Continuing Professional Development), and suitable premises, and that the way in which those resources are used has impact.
When required, serve on panels of governors to:
• appoint the headteacher and other senior leaders;
• appraise the headteacher;
• set the headteacher’s pay and agree the pay recommendations for other staff;
• hear the second stage of staff grievances and disciplinary matters;
• hear appeals about pupil exclusions.
The role of governor is largely a thinking and questioning role, not a doing role.