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Becoming a school governor

If you are looking for an exciting and rewarding challenge, school governance could be for you. Schools and academies are looking for volunteers with an interest in education, relevant skills, a willingness to learn and a passion to achieve school improvement.

Summary of what governors do

Their role is to:

  • set the school’s strategic direction
  • hold the head teacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • ensure that the school’s budget is properly managed and money is well spent.

School governors usually serve a four-year term of office, but can resign at any time. If you become a school governor, you will be expected to:

  • attend around three meetings of the governing boards every year, plus meetings for any committees you’re on
  • visit the school once a term
  • commit to complete ongoing training to continuously update your knowledge.

Why we need diverse and inclusive governing boards

Governors and trustees make decisions that impact significantly on the lives of the pupils and staff. It is important that governing boards reflect their communities so that their decisions take into account the needs and lived experiences of those communities.

A diverse governing board offers positive role models to pupils and staff, and ensures local communities have confidence in the school.

Governing boards also need to operate in an inclusive way that challenges inequality, whatever the diversity on the board.

In 2021, Islington Council carried out a Governors’ Diversity Survey and Action Plan to establish baseline indicators of the diversity on governing boards in Islington.

The findings indicated that Black communities and people with disabilities appeared in particular to be under-represented on governing boards.

Other under-represented groups were males and younger people.

The council carried out a governor recruitment push in spring 2022. People from Black, Asian and ethnic minority communities in particular were invited to get involved. We held on-line Governance Information Sessions and a Prospective Governors Event at which potential governors heard from schools with vacancies. In partnership with Governors for Schools, we are in the process of matching people to their preferred schools. Further recruitment pushes will also focus on the other under-represented groups.

Global Majority Governors Network (GMGN) – Wednesday 7 June 2023, 6pm to 8pm

We are inviting Black, Asian and minority ethnic governors, trustees and associate members in Islington and Camden to the third meeting of this network.

  • Date and time: Wednesday 7 June at 6pm until 8pm
  • Venue: Camden Education Building, 5 Pancras Square, London N1C 4AG
  • Refreshments and networking

The first two meetings were well attended and with lots of energy and focused discussions. The themes of the last meeting on 1 March 2023 were attainment of pupils from GMGN and recruitment of governors.

The themes this time will be:

  • The arts, cultural inclusiveness and decolonising the curriculum
  • How schools support parents and carers of children with Special Educational Needs and Disabilities (SEND) to help them educate their own children.

Please book your place on GovernorHub or email Governor Services stating your name, school and whether you are a governor, trustee or associate member.

More on what governors do

  • Governors work with the head teacher and senior leadership team to improve standards of achievements and ensure public money is being spent properly and openly, while having a duty of care for the pupils and the staff.
  • Their role is strategic, providing insight and accountability, support and challenge.
  • Governors do not get involved in the day-to-day/operational management of the school and they are there in the interests of all pupils at the school.
  • Legally, governing boards are corporate boards, so responsibility and the power to take action and make decisions lies with the board as a whole, not its individual members. Governors work as a team and make collective decisions.
  • There are training sessions and briefings to support governors in Islington with their development.
  • With the pandemic, the majority of meetings have been held using video conferencing rather than being face to face. Some governing boards are now thinking to keep remote meetings for some meetings, others to be face to face or hybrid.

What do I need to be a governor?

  • Commitment and a passion for education
  • The necessary skills and/or experience to be able to support and challenge the headteacher and contribute to discussions and decision-making
  • A willingness to learn
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Time
  • An appropriate level of literacy and sufficient numeracy to understand basic data

Knowledge of the locality and communities in which the school operates can be very helpful.

What are the benefits to people who take on the role?

People benefit in a range of ways, such as feeling they are ‘giving back’, sharing and developing their skills and knowledge, meeting people and working with a team, learning more about the education system and progressing their careers.

Governors responding to the Islington Governors Diversity Survey 2021 told us what they had got out of being a governor:

  • ‘Feeling like I'm making a difference.’
  • ‘Helping to support the school make difficult decisions in these increasingly pressurised times.’
  • ‘Better understanding of school system. Being able to contribute to my children’s school.’
  • ‘Encouraging the school to take a deeper look at equality and diversity.’
  • ‘Feeling part of the exciting, innovative journey that the school is taking. I chair the Children, Families and Community committee, so I have enjoyed the opportunities for consultation with children and families and hearing their voices represented.’
  • ‘Witnessing the light bulb moments experienced by children.’

There is also feedback from governors across the country that has been gathered by the two national organisations that match potential governors to governor vacancies:

Types of governor/associate member/trustee

There are five types of school governor at schools maintained by the council – community schools, foundation schools and voluntary-aided (church) schools:

  • Parent governors - elected by other parents.
  • Co-opted governors - appointed by the governing board and often have specific skills
  • Staff governors - work in the school and are elected by staff at the school.
  • Foundation governors - appointed by the organisation that supports the school such as the local diocese but can be a charitable trust.
  • Local Authority governors - appointed by the governing boards following a nomination from the local council.

Headteachers are also governors because of their job (ex-officio), unless they choose not to be a governor.

In addition, governing boards may appoint associate members – usually to join a committee due to their specialist knowledge. They are not school governors, but they can attend although not vote at full governing board meetings. Being an associate member can be a good way for someone to assess if they might want to commit to being a full governor.

Academy schools do things differently. You’ll find details in their Articles of Association, which you can get from the school.

Routes to becoming a governor or trustee

  • We would recommend you attend one of the governance information sessions and the prospective governor event set out above.

Otherwise you can contact:

  • your local school/s to see if they have any vacancies.
  • the national organisations that match potential governors, trustees and associate members to schools that have registered their vacancies with them.
    These are:
  • If you are a parent or staff member, keep an eye out for upcoming elections.
  • If you are interested in being a Foundation governor in a local church school, you could also contact the local Diocesan authorities.
    • Catholic schools – Diocese of Westminster
    • Church of England – London Diocesan Board of Schools
  • Please note, on appointment as a governor or trustee, the school will need to carry out checks to ensure you are suitable to be a governor, including a DBS check and a self-declaration form that you complete to confirm you are not disqualified.

Support to governors and potential governors

If you have any questions, please contact Jane Wright.

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