Every school has a governing body of between seven and 20 members. They are the strategic leaders of schools and have a vital role to play in making sure every child gets the best possible education. The governing body consists of:
- school staff
- nominees from the local authority
- people from the local community.
Certain schools will also have foundation governors linked with their local church or diocese.
Governors are the largest volunteer force in the country and have an important part to play in raising school standards. They have three core strategic 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.
The decisions made by the governing body help to the shape the future of the children in their schools.
What do governors do?
The role of the governing body is a strategic one. The governing body is responsible for the conduct of the school, and must promote high standards of educational achievement. It is the accountable body and as such it:
- provides a long-term strategy for the school by establishing a vision and setting the ethos and aims of the school
- appoints and holds the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school
- performance appraises the headteacher
- agrees the school improvement strategy, including setting targets with supporting budgets and staffing structures
- monitors and evaluates the work of the school by reviewing the performance of the headteacher, the effectiveness of the policy framework, progress towards targets, and the effectiveness of the school improvement strategy
- signs off the self-evaluation process and responds to Ofsted reports as necessary. In addition it ensures that parents are involved, consulted, and informed as appropriate, with information to the community being made available as required.
The headteacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and the implementation of the strategic framework established by the governing body.
It's a tough job, but I have received lots of support, and it's worth it
- Primary school governor
Who can be a school governor?
Governors do not have to be a particular type of person. You don't have to have particular qualifications, know about education or have children. Though certain skills are required by the governing body.
Volunteers must be over 18 but are then welcome regardless of race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origin, sex, disability, marital status, sexual orientation or religion. It is, in fact, critical that volunteers represent all age groups and all the diverse communities in the area of the school. Being a governor can also offer you the chance to learn new skills, which may then help you in your careers.
How much time will it take up?
The time needed to be an active school governor can be as little as six to eight hours each school month. This includes preparation time for meetings and visits. The normal term of office for a school governor is four years but governors are volunteers who can leave at any time. They can also be re-appointed or re-elected.
The amount of time will vary depending on how much you are able and willing to give to the role. However, you should be prepared to:
- attend meetings - the governing body must meet at least once a term. Governing bodies also have a number of committees who report back to the full governing body. You will probably be asked to serve on at least one committee. We recommend that no meeting lasts more than two hours
- read through papers and minutes prior to the meeting so that you are prepared for any discussions
- get to meetings - which are normally during the evening but can be during the day
- attend training to develop your skills as a governor.
What are the benefits of being a school governor?
The main benefit of being a school governor is the personal satisfaction you will get from being involved in the most important volunteering role in education. You really can make a difference to the future of our children. Other benefits include:
- the opportunity to develop new skills and strengthen existing ones
- the opportunity to work as part of a team, often with a range of people from a variety of social, cultural and religious backgrounds
- an understanding of the decision-making process of school governing bodies and an awareness of the education system as a whole
- the opportunity to undertake training provided by the local authority on various aspects of the governor role.
Governors have a real job to do and it is interesting, challenging and rewarding
- Governor from the business community
As a governor, what support will I get?
- The headteacher, experienced governors and the clerk on your governing body will be a major source of advice.
- An induction course for newly appointed governors is provided covering all the main areas linked to governance.
- A training programme is available to all governors.
- A welcome pack from your school which includes the school governor's handbook will be provided.
- There are training and conferences on a wide range of subjects.
- We produce a half-termly newsletter to help you in your role as school governor. This covers both local and national initiatives and developments.
- Department for Education (DfE) has a free professional helpline offering email and telephone support to school governors, clerks and individuals involved directly in the governance of maintained schools in England by telephone on 08000 722181.
- The DfE governor website contains vital up-to-date information for governors.
You will find plenty information about what support is available to governors, including the training programme on our Schools' Information Portal.
I have been a governor for seven years and apart from the diplomacy skills, I have learnt that you really need to make the best use of the skills of the people on the governing body. We have a group of diverse individuals all of whom have their own strengths which can be harnessed for the good of the school. I've also learnt that some things take time to change and you can't do everything in one go.
The role has increased my confidence when dealing with other people and this has had a positive impact on my day job too.
- Jason Coupland, Chair of Governors, Silverhill Primary School
I'm interested in becoming a school governor who do I contact?
If you are interested in becoming a governor contact the Governor Support team and provide:
- a DCC New Governor's Nomination Form
- two reference forms - Professional Reference Letter and Form and a Personal Reference Letter and Form from people who have known you for at least two years.
Contact us by:
- emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
- filling in the become a school governor online form
- telephoning 01332 640364
- Monday to Thursday - 8.30am to 5pm
- Friday - 8.30am to 4.30pm
- Saturday to Sunday - Closed