The role of governors
There are a range of roles and actions that the governing body or individual governors need to undertake
Being a governor is a vital Christian ministry. It involves time, energy and a willingness to become involved in the life of the school on a regular basis. It requires the prayerful and practical support of the local Church. The governing body has a strategic role and must not be confused with the role of the headteacher. It develops policy in consultation with the staff of the school, approves these policies and monitors their implementation. The headteacher, aided by any leadership team, is responsible for the implementation of these policies and the day-to-day management of the school. The Education and Inspections Act 2006 gives the governing body the additional duties to promote the well-being of pupils at the school, promote community cohesion and have regard to any relevant children and young people's plan. This section introduces the role of governors. For more information, look at the web links.
Contents of this section:
- An Introduction to Governing Church Schools
- The role of a Foundation Governor
- Parent and Staff Governors
- The Role of the Chair of Governors
- The Role of the Clerk
- Statutory Inspection of Anglican Schools (SIAS)
- Visiting Your School
- Code of Conduct for Governors of Church Schools
- Information which should be provided to all Governors
1. CHURCH SCHOOL - AIDED OR CONTROLLED OR ACADEMY?
A governing body has a range of duties and powers and a general responsibility for the conduct of the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement including setting targets for pupil achievement, managing the school’s finances, making sure the curriculum is balanced and broadly based, appointing staff and reviewing staff performance and pay and many more.
The types of maintained church school in the Diocese are voluntary aided (VA), and voluntary controlled (VC). Academies are independent schools funded directly by the Government. There are some differences in the range of responsibilities between the different types of school. VA and VC schools are, in common with community and foundation schools, part of the Local Authority maintained sector, and make up approximately one-third of the maintained schools in England and Wales. The governing body of an academy or VA school has more autonomy in some areas of policy than a governing body of a VC school.
Academy and VA school governing bodies differ from other maintained schools, in that, they are responsible for: the admission policy of the school; the buildings and their upkeep, and are the employers of most of the staff in the school. VA governing bodies also have responsibility for setting the religious education and collective worship policy (for academies agreements made with the Secretary of State define these responsibilities).
Governors of VC schools have less autonomy in such matters, but are responsible for the collective worship policy, appointing a member of staff to teach religious education, as well as having (in most cases) some control over use of the school building on Sundays.
You will find more information about the differences by clicking here.
2. HOW IS THE GOVERNING BODY MADE UP?
The governing body includes foundation governors appointed by the local church, the Diocese and, occasionally, by charitable bodies connected with the original foundation of the school. In VA schools the foundation governors must be in a majority of two. In VC schools, foundation governors are in the minority. In academies, the structure of the governing body will be decided by the academy trust and depend on agreements made with the Secretary of State.
The representative governors are made up of elected parents, local authority (LA) representatives, staff representatives. and (if desired) members co-opted by the governing body for their skills and/or experience.Schools may also have associate members of the governing body.
Each LA maintained school's governing body’s constitution is written up in a legal document called the Instrument of Government; this sets out the number of members in each category and in a church school contains an ethos statement which confirms that the school has a Christian foundation.
Further information on the categories of governor and the Instrument of Government for VA and VC schools is available here.
The governing body of an LA maintained school may decide to review and alter the Instrument of Government from time to time. Any Instrument must comply with relevant education law: the approval of the Diocesan Board of Education is needed for any change. The LA officially makes any new Instrument.
3. HOW DOES THE GOVERNING BODY MAKE DECISIONS?
No matter how appointed or elected all governors bring a valid perspective to the governing body. The responsibility for the decisions made at governing body meetings does not rest with any individual governor, or a small group of governors, but with the whole governing body. Responsibility for decisions is, therefore, a corporate matter and it is important that governors understand that decisions taken by a committee are taken on behalf of the whole governing body.
A governing body or committee must be quorate in order to make decisions and governors should try to reach a consensus wherever possible, otherwise decisions will be made by simple majority vote with the chair having a casting vote, if necessary. The chair of governors (or in his/her absence, the vice-chair) has power to act on behalf of the governing body but only in cases of urgency where inaction would be detrimental to the interests of the school, its pupils, parents or employees. Any such action must be reported to the next meeting of the full governing body.
4. WHAT HAPPENS AT GOVERNORS’ MEETINGS?
Governing bodies are required to meet once a term: in practice, most governing bodies often meet more often. Governing bodies usually have a number of committees which deal with specific issues, such as, personnel, finance, admissions, curriculum and premises. This enables the workload to be shared equitably and any skills, experience or interests that individual governors may have to be put to best use.
Most formal meetings of church school governing bodies open with prayer and all formal meetings and committees have an agenda which indicates the business to be discussed. The issues that might be discussed at a full governors’ meeting will vary, but some items will be standard, e.g. minutes of the previous meeting and any matters arising, the headteacher’s report, the school development plan, reports from committees, correspondence, reports from the Diocese. The chair of governors will conduct the meeting and should ensure that everyone has an opportunity to contribute. The clerk (or secretary in the case of an academy) to the governors takes the minutes of the meeting, records those present and advises on procedural matters. Every governor should prepare for the meeting by reading the papers and noting any points they want to make or wish to clarify.
New governors should expect some help to enable them to understand their role and the issues facing the school. As a minimum, new governors should meet with the headteacher and chair of governors and be given access to relevant information about the school and the work of the governing body. They should also have access to relevant governor training provided by the LA or Diocese.
5. HOW CAN I GET TO KNOW THE SCHOOL?
It is vital that governors get to know their school in order that decisions made at governors’ meetings can be earthed in firsthand knowledge of the school at work. It is helpful to read the school prospectus and other documentation about the school but there is no substitute for a school visit. One of the enjoyable aspects of being a governor is being involved with the pupils during the school day. However, any visit must be carefully planned in consultation with the headteacher and any member of staff whose class you are to visit. Governors must be clear that their role is not that of an inspector: ask questions, of course, at appropriate times, but remember that visits should be viewed as an opportunity for getting alongside the head, staff and pupils as well as an opportunity to fulfil the governor’s role in monitoring.
6. WHAT QUALIFICATIONS DO I NEED?
Governors do not need any formal qualifications and are not expected to be experts in everything. Governing any school will involve a considerable commitment; the list of responsibilities can be daunting but they are shared by the whole governing body. It is vital, therefore, that each governor plays his/her part and that a sensible and fair distribution of the work is made. All governors are able to offer something whether it is a particular skill, such as minuting or organising committee meetings, interviewing, or whether you have experience as a teacher, parent, grandparent, builder, surveyor, counsellor, personnel officer, nurse, youth leader or social worker. Equally important are the skills of being able to listen and offer encouragement and support to staff, pupils, parents and your fellow governors. Your contribution can make a difference to the school and the education and experiences that pupils receive.
STATUS OF THE GOVERNING BODY
- The governing bodies of voluntary schools and academies are corporate bodies with exempt charitable status. A corporate body has a legal identity separate from that of its members. As a corporate body the governing body must have a seal to validate some documents, for example deeds. Legal stationers can give advice on the type needed and cost. When the seal is used the chair and another governor who has been duly authorised by the governing body should also sign the document to validate the seal.
- Because it is a corporate body, individual governors are generally protected from personal liability as a result of the governing body’s decisions and actions. Provided they act honestly, reasonably and in good faith any liability will fall on the governing body even if it has exceeded its powers rather than on individual members.
- Individual governors have no power or right to act on behalf of the governing body except where the whole governing body has delegated a specific function to that individual, or where regulations specify that a function is to be exercised in a particular way. The governing body is legally liable for all actions taken in its name by individuals or committees to which it has delegated functions. The governing body should therefore ensure that decisions to delegate specific responsibilities are properly minuted and recorded.
- As a charity, you may wish to contact the Charity Commission to find out how charitable status can help you make the most effective use of gifts and other support from the business community, parents, and others. Advice is also available from Sandra Jones.
In voluntary aided (VA) schools, the foundation governors must be in a majority of two.
In voluntary controlled (VC) schools, the foundation governors number at least two but no more than a quarter of the total number of governors.
In academies the number of foundation governors will depend on the agreements made with the Secretary of State.
2. TERM OF OFFICE
The usual term of office for a foundation governor will be four years regardless of the type of school (as with all other categories of governor this can be varied by the Instrument of Government). Those bodies which appoint foundation governors (parochial church councils, DBE etc.) should be consulted on the period of office.
3. TYPES OF FOUNDATION GOVERNOR
There are various routes by which a foundation governor may be appointed to a church school governing body:
- by virtue of being an incumbent of a parish;
- by the Parochial Church Council (PCC);
- by the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE);
- by a foundation body relating to the trustees, or the original founders of the school.
Incumbents of parishes with a church school are often ex officio foundation governors, that is, they are members of the governing body because they hold the office of incumbent. The church school is very much part of the local worshipping community. Incumbents should take their role in relation to the church school very seriously and some are happy to take on the role of chair (if elected), although the Diocesan Board of Education recommends that they do not take this role as often they can better serve the needs of the school, its staff and pupils if they do not take on that particular position. If the Incumbent does not wish to be a governor, the Diocesan Director of Education should be informed.
4. DIOCESAN REPRESENTATIVES ON GOVERNING BODIES
The Diocesan Board of Education appoints representatives to each school governing body in the Diocese, although the number does vary and there is often only one Diocesan representative on a controlled school governing body. Where there is a vacancy for a Diocesan representative, nominations are usually sought from the incumbent of the parish in which the school is situated, but nominees may be sought using other Diocesan networks. The Diocesan Board of Education is mindful of the need for its representatives to uphold and strengthen the Christian foundation of its schools. Diocesan Board representatives are expected to put forward Diocesan Board of Education policy where pertinent to a particular issue of debate at governors’ meetings. The Board sends out newsletters to keep governors aware of policy and other initiatives. However, such representatives are not delegates and should there be a vote on any issue at a governors’ meeting, in common with all their fellow governors, whether elected or appointed, they should vote according to their conscience.
5. ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES OF FOUNDATION GOVERNORS
Every governor whether appointed, elected or ex officio has the same duties and responsibilities. As a corporate body, the responsibilities of church school governors include - religious education, staffing, finance, and in VA schools and academies, admission of pupils and buildings and maintenance.
Foundation governors should have a particular concern for the religious education and collective worship in the school and in making financial decisions should recognise that religious education deserves full resourcing support. They should also seek to maintain and develop the links with the local church. Foundation governors also have a special responsibility for securing that the character of the school as a Church of England voluntary school is preserved and developed and that the school is conducted in accordance with the provisions of the school’s ethos statement. For maintained schools, this is contained in the Instrument of Government and all schools have access to this through their local authority. It relates to the school’s Christian foundation and for church schools sets the context in which governors carry out their responsibilities. The ethos statement which has been adopted by the majority of Church of England schools is:
Recognising its historic foundation, the school will preserve and develop its religious character in accordance with the principles of the Church of England and in partnership with the Church at parish and diocesan level. The school aims to serve its community by providing an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice. It encourages an understanding of the meaning and significance of faith and promotes Christian values through the experience it offers to all its pupils.
6. CHURCH SCHOOL ETHOS
The above statement serves a specific purpose as part of a legal document rooting the school in its Christian foundation; it is only found in those schools which have a religious character. All schools will, however, develop their own ethos and in broader terms it may be defined as the prevailing character, tone and spirit of an institution. Ethos is created and influenced by factors both inside and outside the school community. As these factors change, so the ethos of a school must be dynamic and open to review and appraisal. Schools exist in a changing society and are required to respond appropriately to its needs and expectations. The response of church schools will reflect their Christian foundation, but at the same time they will be mindful of the diversity of culture and faith which exists in society. All schools, urban and rural, primary and secondary should draw upon this diversity creatively and take the opportunity to celebrate the richness that it brings. The principles which govern the school’s response to society’s changing face are those which make for a loving, caring, accepting community that acknowledges the unique value of each individual both within the school community and society at large. Church schools do not have the monopoly on loving and caring relationships; nevertheless the church school is institutionally rooted in the Christian faith and is thus different from any other school. In seeking to preserve the character of their schools, foundation governors will want to contribute to sustaining, developing and nurturing the school’s Christian ethos.
Governors of VA schools, through their legal right to appoint Christian staff and set the RE and worship policy may create an institution in which the Christian faith is manifest through every aspect of school life. Other types of church school also aim to develop a corporate life which attempts to glorify God in developing the full human potential of each person, whether pupil, member of staff, parent or governor. Then the school’s ethos of love and care will be the foundation of its aims in educating its pupils to make their proper contribution to society.
1. PARENT GOVERNORS
Governing bodies of schools and academies are required to have at least two parent governors elected by the parent body. Elected parent governors are allowed to complete their term of office even if their child has left the school. The term of office is usually four years.
2. STAFF GOVERNORS
Academies are free to choose whether to have staff governors.
In VA and VC schools, there will be one governor elected by the staff (not including the headteacher who is automatically a governor).
3. DELEGATE OR REPRESENTATIVE
Elected governors, whether parents or members of staff will bring a particular perspective to any issues raised at governors’ meetings. However, sometimes there is confusion over the role of elected governors. It should be clear to all concerned, and particularly the electing body, that the governor whom they elect is not a delegate and cannot be mandated to vote in a particular way on any given issue. Elected governors, in common with all governors, are individuals within a corporate body, they must, therefore, vote according to their conscience.
4. RESPONSIBILITIES OF ELECTED PARENT AND STAFF GOVERNORS
Every governor whether appointed, elected or acting ex officio has the same duties and responsibilities. As a corporate body, the responsibilities of church school governors include a wide range of issues. No individual governor may act on behalf of the governing body unless given the delegated power to do so.
Parent governors will have a special concern for issues which most affect parents and may be viewed, by other parents, as a channel for parental concerns or complaints. Parent governors need to be clear that the first point of reference for any parent who has a concern is the headteacher, or, if the situation demands, the chair of governors. Schools will have their own procedures for dealing with parents’ questions and complaints and certain governors will have a specific role in such procedures. All governors should familiarise themselves with the school’s complaints procedures and ensure they are dealt with properly. The majority of enquiries can usually be dealt with at once and sometimes, if appropriate, the class teacher, head of year or other designated individual may respond. Occasionally, it may be considered appropriate to bring an issue to a full governors’ meeting, if so, the chair of governors should be consulted in order to put an item on the agenda, this should only be for general issues of concern to a number of parents, not individual complaints.
Staff governors will have a particular concern for those issues which affect the teaching or support staff and may be considered by his/her colleagues as a channel for their concerns. Staff governors need to be sensitive to the appropriateness of raising such concerns at governors’ meetings; some may be more appropriately handled by the headteacher or, if necessary, communicated to the chair of governors.
5. COMMUNICATION AND CONFIDENTIALITY
Elected parent governors often feel disadvantaged because they have a large “constituency” with which they feel they must communicate. Some items on governing body agendas are confidential and must remain so. These will include reports on pupil and staff discipline, staff appointments etc. Other items may need to be reported back to parents. Minutes of meetings are required to be published and made available for inspection by staff, parents and pupils, but parent governors may feel this is insufficient and wish to make a more personal report via a newsletter or other school publication. It is essential to discuss this with the headteacher beforehand to find the best way of communicating with parents. Some parent governors, with the headteacher’s agreement, have held monthly 'surgeries' in order that parents may have a regular forum for communicating their views, but care should be taken that the goodwill of governors is not abused; there is a real danger that such surgeries become simply a 'complaints' forum. It is important that the surgeries are seen as a positive contribution to enhancing communication between the governors and parents.
Elected staff governors may also feel disadvantaged because they have a constituency with which they feel they must communicate. At times considerable pressure can be brought to bear when colleagues wish to know the outcome of governors’ debates; clearly where the discussion was deemed by the governing body to be confidential, all governors must abide by the ruling.
The electing bodies should be aware that draft minutes of governors’ meetings are required to be made available once these have been approved by the chair of governors.
6. WITHDRAWAL FROM MEETINGS - STAFF GOVERNORS AND OTHER EMPLOYEES
Regulations prescribe the circumstances in which a governor must withdraw from a governors’ meeting. Employees at a school may find themselves being requested to withdraw more often than other governors, e.g. where they have an interest in the promotion of a colleague because they could stand to benefit from the vacated post. The circumstances in which employees must withdraw are outlined below. Withdrawal applies both to governing body meetings and committees. In general any person present at a governing body or committee meeting must withdraw and not vote on any matter under consideration if there is a conflict of interest between that person and the governing body, or where a fair hearing is required and there is reasonable doubt as to the person’s ability to act impartially. Pecuniary interest affects all governors and the regulations are clear that where a person has a direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any matter, he/she must withdraw from the meeting. A member of staff will be exempt from having to withdraw where:
- the pecuniary interest is no greater than that of other members of staff employed at the school;
- the contract or matter under consideration relates to the exercise of governing body’s functions in relation to the curriculum or management of the school’s budget under local management;
- the matter involves expenditure by the governing body.
Particular conditions apply where the pay and appraisal of individuals is concerned. Staff (with the exception of the headteacher) must withdraw and cannot vote on any matter relating to the pay or appraisal of any individual working at the school. Headteachers must withdraw and cannot vote on any matter connected with their own pay or appraisal. This does not prevent staff contributing to general discussions about policy.
The chair of governors and the clerk (secretary in academies) have the main roles at governors’ meetings, but the role of the chair of governors is not simply to chair meetings and to some the role can seem daunting. It is vital that the governing body do not expect the chair to do everything on their behalf; the workload of governing bodies is such that it must be shared and while the chair, inevitably, takes on extra responsibilities it should not be without the support of his or her fellow governors. The vice-chair also plays a key role in supporting the chair and sharing the workload and is not simply there to take control of meetings in the chair’s absence.
2. THE ROLE OF THE CHAIR AT MEETINGS
The chair directs and controls the meeting and generally attempts to ensure that it works effectively to reach the decisions necessary to govern the school. The chair and vice-chair are elected, usually annually, at the first governors’ meeting of the autumn term; governors who are paid to work at the school, for instance the headteacher and staff governors and pupils at the school cannot be elected as chair or vice-chair. The following list gives the chair’s main responsibilities in relation to governors’ meetings:
- to liaise with the headteacher and clerk to draw up the agenda: it is helpful for the chair and headteacher to go through the agenda and the headteacher’s report, prior to the meeting, in order that both may be alerted to the key issues;
- to arrange for prayers to be said at the start of the meeting;
- to formally declare the meeting open and to state its business;
- to ensure that the minutes of the previous meeting are an accurate reflection of what took place, and sign to this effect;
- to maintain order and ensure that everyone has an opportunity to comment and that discussion is relevant and stays within the powers and remit of the governing body;
- to give decisions on points of order, formulate proposals or resolutions as appropriate;
- to sum up the arguments of discussion, in an unbiased manner, to reflect the consensus view before putting matters to the vote;
- to report on any urgent action taken between meetings;
- to keep the meeting strictly to time as far as possible and to work consistently through the printed agenda;
- to adjourn a topic or meeting if necessary.
3. EFFECTIVE MEETINGS
A meeting of a governing body is no different to any other business meeting and there are certain general principles which can be applied to try to ensure that the meeting is effective:
- there is a specific purpose for holding the meeting;
- the agenda is realistic, given the time available;
- the purpose of each agenda item is indicated and governors are clear what is expected of them, e.g., report to be received, for discussion and decision, for information etc.;
- minor items are dealt with quickly allowing sufficient time for more important items;
- the pace of the meeting is controlled by the chair such that involvement of governors is maximised and governors are kept from straying from the point;
- expertise is available to provide technical information where necessary;
- conclusions reached and follow-up action are monitored carefully to ensure they are implemented;
- there is a good atmosphere, based on team spirit that leads to a collective approach to problem solving and decision making;
- punctuality is encouraged;
- Any Other Business is kept to a minimum; no vote should ever be taken on an issue brought up under this heading.
The chair should encourage debate at meetings, but not allow a minority of governors to dominate; often a quiet word after the meeting to an over-dominant governor is all that is necessary. Governors need to feel that they have had an opportunity to make a contribution, however small. It is important for a chair to encourage those who lack confidence, or fear that they are simply repeating the views of others, only then can a chair gauge the views of the whole governing body.
4. CHAIR’S ACTION
There may be occasions when it is necessary for the chair (or if she/he is unavailable, the vice chair) to take urgent action. Those circumstances are where a delay would be likely to be seriously detrimental to the interests of the school, or to the interests of any registered pupil, his/her parent, or a person employed at the school. Essentially, a delay means that it is impracticable for the governors to meet before such seriously detrimental effects are felt. The chair (or vice-chair) has power to act on behalf of the governing body only in discharging those functions which regulations allow the governing body to delegate to a committee, individual governor or the headteacher.
5. THE CHAIR’S ROLE
The chair plays a key role in encouraging a corporate spirit in the governing body and in assisting new governors to get to know the school. The chair should meet regularly with the headteacher to discuss current issues, problems and new ideas and will wish to establish good relationships with the teaching and support staff in the school. The chair plays a vital part in supporting the school and, in particular, the headteacher who may at times feel isolated. Sometimes this will mean just listening, at other times, taking positive action; it will certainly involve a good deal of time and commitment in getting to know the school, the staff and the pupils. The chair of governors will need to have a vision for the school and its future development and will need to motivate governors towards the governing body’s declared goals. Some governors can feel disenfranchised if they feel their contribution is not valued: the chair is essentially the leader of the team and must try to ensure that all governors feel able to play their part and contribute. Governors will feel motivated if:
- they share with the rest of the governing body a common purpose and vision for the school;
- they feel their contribution is valued;
- everyone is sharing the workload;
- they feel their contribution is making a difference to the school.
The chair of governors must not take it upon him/herself to read every piece of paper! The purpose of having a committee structure is so that the workload can be shared; relevant paper should be passed to the committee chairs so that they can take some responsibility. The chair may find it useful to keep a log of the information that is received and what has been done with it. The chair and the chairs of the committees will need to discern what is important for the school. There is a danger that governors’ meetings become overtaken by 'initiatives' and lose their focus on what is important for the school. The chair will also need to understand the role of the church school in the local community and, in particular, in relation to the church community. The chair will also be mindful of the ethos of the school and will wish to ensure that the school’s Christian foundation is safeguarded and developed. It is important therefore that the chair of governors is fully aware of the values upheld by the school.
6. THE ROLE OF THE VICE-CHAIR
The role of vice-chair is an important one and regulations require that the vice-chair is elected at the first meeting of the academic year in the same way as the chair of governors. His/her official role is to act as chair in the absence of the chair of governors and he/she may take urgent action, if required, where the chair of governors cannot be contacted. Some governing bodies see the office of vice-chair as a training ground for a future chair, although this must not be allowed to prejudice the election of the chair and the ability of other governors to stand for that office. The vice-chair will need to keep up-to-date with developments in the school and be aware of any specific issues affecting the governing body. It is important that the chair and vice-chair discuss their respective roles, so that they can complement each other and share responsibility for the smooth running of governing body business.
While the chair of governors takes on extra responsibilities, as described above, he or she is essentially a governor. In common with all governors the chair will place top priority on the education, learning and welfare of the pupils in the school. The role of the chair is sometimes difficult and frustrating; it requires tact and sensitivity and an ability to stand back and see the school’s bad points as well as its good points: at the same time, it is often challenging and can be very rewarding.
The chair and the clerk (or secretary in academies) have the main role at governors' meetings. Effective meetings owe their success to the level and quality of their management and contributions. The chair directs and controls the meeting and generally attempts to ensure that it works effectively to reach the decisions necessary to govern the school. The clerk manages all essential documentation, ensures that the proceedings of meetings are recorded accurately and provides information and advice where appropriate. A good clerk is an invaluable asset to a school. A clerk with a good working relationship with the head and the chair, together with a sound knowledge of the school, can do much to improve the effectiveness of the governing body. The clerk cannot be a governor of the school.
2. THE DUTIES OF THE CLERK (or SECRETARY in academies)
The following is a summary of the clerk's main duties:
- to arrange formal meetings of the governing body;
- to prepare the agenda in consultation with the chair and headteacher;
- to chair the meeting for the purposes of the election of the chair of governors at the first meeting of the autumn term;
- to ensure that the agenda, minutes and reports are sent to all governors, including the headteacher (whether or not he/she is a governor) seven clear days before a meeting;
- to attend all formal meetings of the governing body where official business is to be conducted;
- to record names of those present and to ensure that the governing body's consent or otherwise to the absence of a governor is recorded;
- to take notes of the proceedings of the meeting, noting any follow-up action required, including the person who has accepted responsibility to undertake this further work;
- to ensure that meetings are quorate: business cannot continue if a meeting becomes inquorate, a further meeting should be arranged to conduct the rest of the business;
- to advise on procedure in accordance with the Regulations (see section 7 overleaf);
- to help formulate proposals or resolutions as required and report back on progress of previous resolutions;
- to notify (two months in advance) those responsible for appointing governors that an individual's term of office is due for renewal unless notice of their re-appointment or replacement has already been received;
- to undertake essential correspondence and paperwork between meetings and to report on correspondence received;
- to prepare the draft and final minutes.
3. CONVENING MEETINGS
Governors are required to meet at least once a term and usually meet more often in practice; it is the clerk's duty to arrange all formal meetings of the full governing body. The clerk must give at least 7 days written notice of a meeting (except where emergency meetings are called) and an agenda must be sent to every governor, the headteacher and the local education authority (for LA-maintained schools) and to the Diocesan Board of Education. Any three governors may request a meeting of the governing body and it is the clerk's duty to convene such a meeting. However, where the governing body establishes formal committees the clerks to the committees should convene the meetings and take the minutes. At special meetings called for the discussion of specific items, no other business may be raised.
4. THE AGENDA
The preparation of the agenda is undertaken, after consultation with the chair and headteacher. It is difficult to be precise about the exact nature and presentation of agendas since these will vary between individual schools; nonetheless, there will be a number of common features. An ordinary meeting will be opened with prayer and the agenda will usually contain the following items:
- apologies for absence;
- declaration of interest;
- constitutional items, e.g., election of chair/vice-chair, changes in membership;
- confirmation of the minutes of the previous meeting;
- matters arising from those minutes;
- urgent business undertaken by the chair since the last meeting - or "chair's action";
- headteacher's report;
- committee reports;
- reports from the DBE/LA (for LA-maintained schools);
- governor training and visits;
- any other business;
- date of next meeting.
It is helpful for governors to know which items on an agenda are for information and which are for discussion and decision; this needs to be decided in consultation with the chair and could be included on the agenda. Ideally, important items should be near the top of the agenda and due weight given to the time available for such items. Some chairs of governors set times for each agenda item so giving some indication of the importance of different items. Governing bodies should have sufficient information before the meeting particularly if they are making decisions. Written reports should be enclosed with the agenda and correspondence should be listed on the agenda and some indication given as to whether or not it has been passed to a committee, or is enclosed for information. Any other business should not be used to bring up substantial issues, but may be used to bring up issues for future meetings, or minor urgent matters which have arisen after the agenda was drawn up. If possible the chair and clerk should be notified beforehand of items which will be raised.
Governors must decide which items are to be minuted under a confidential, part two, to the minutes. This must be totally separate from the main minutes and only available to governors. The chair of governors and the headteacher will have a view as to which agenda items are likely to be confidential. The issues likely to be minuted in this section will relate mainly to exclusion of pupils, staff grievance and discipline, complaints and personal matters and the clerk should ensure that all items referring to individual pupils or staff are automatically minuted in section two. Individuals should not be identified. Governors must be aware that details of individual cases cannot be discussed at full governors' meetings because this could prejudice the governors' ability to act impartially at a later hearing. Governors should know, before they leave a meeting, which items, if any, are confidential to the governing body. It is helpful, therefore, if this can be decided at the time of discussion, so that if a governor has to leave a meeting early, he/she knows which items have been deemed confidential by the governing body. Opinions by governors involving a named person which is in any way sensitive or critical are always confidential. Observers should withdraw from meetings during discussion of confidential items.
Minutes are a written record of what was discussed and decided at the meeting and they are written, therefore, in the past tense. All minutes must show the name of the school, the date and venue and a list of those present. Minutes should record accurately the decisions taken and the essence of the discussion, such that, an absent governor might understand what took place. Any resolutions made must be recorded in full and any decisions taken recorded together with the names of those who agreed to take action on any item. The draft minutes should be produced in consultation with the chair as soon as possible after the meeting and approved draft minutes approved by the chair of governors, signed minutes and papers must be made available for inspection. Approved minutes should be sent to the Diocesan Board of Education and the LA.
All LA-maintained church schools have in their Instrument of Government an ethos statement. In the Diocese all schools have adopted the following statement, or one very similar:
Recognising its historic foundation, the school will preserve and develop its religious character in accordance with the principles of the Church of England and in partnership with the churches at parish and diocesan level.
The school aims to serve its community by providing an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice. It encourages an understanding of the meaning and significance of faith and promotes Christian values through the experience it offers to all its pupils.
However, the school ethos is not something written on a piece of paper. It embodies the values advocated by the school's communities and provides the atmosphere for life in and beyond the school itself. The ethos statement acts as a focus for the unity of values and purpose among the diversity of the members of the school communities. The Christian ethos of a Church school should infuse the whole of the school curriculum and school life.
The following are some of the aspects of school life which will contribute to the ethos of a Church school:
- the manner in which the school's mission statement and/or policies draw attention to the Christian foundation of the school and are conveyed to parents;
- the relationships with the local church;
- the relationships between staff, between pupils and between staff and pupils;
- the standards of behaviour, the policies on discipline and the values inherent in classroom organization and relationships and how these are met within the framework of Christian values;
- the links the school has with the local community, particularly the religious communities near to the school and from which pupils may come;
- how effective the pastoral system is and whether it is effective from the pupils' point of view;
- whether the building is well cared for, is tidy and clean and whether the standard of display is adequate;
- the provision made for pupils with special educational needs and abilities;
- whether it is clear from the ambience of the school that it is a Church school; whether there are Christian symbols in evidence, whether the school notice board and headed paper indicate the Christian foundation of the school;
- whether the school resource areas are equipped to support a Church school education;
- whether the personal, health and sex education programmes are set in the context of Christian values;
- whether there are staff prayers and Eucharists, prayers at staff and governors' meetings;
- whether there is a well-structured and managed policy for Social Moral Cultural and Spiritual education;
- a deliberate attempt to link the gospel of Christ with the daily life of the school;
- an atmosphere of encouragement, acceptance and respect;
- a sensitivity to individual needs where children's self-esteem and confidence grow and where they feel able to make mistakes without fear of criticism;
- partnership between adults and children;
- sensitivity towards the beliefs, hopes and fears of parents;
- providing stepping stones to and from the community;
- links with global communities and work with charities;
- a curriculum that combines academic rigour with fun, sensitivity and prayerfulness.
A church school should offer the pupils the opportunity to:
- reflect on the importance of a system of personal belief;
- recognise the place a Christian faith has in the lives of people;
- develop a sense of wonder, awe, curiosity and mystery;
- understand the difference between right and wrong and the consequences of their actions for themselves and others;
- be creative, questioning and imaginative within a broad Christian framework that recognizes the importance of experience, personal values and respect for the beliefs of others;
- recognise, respect and celebrate cultural diversity
The governing body (for aided schools and academies) or foundation governors (for controlled schools) of Church of England schools are responsible in law for the appointment of a person to undertake the inspection of denominational education and collective worship in their schools. They are required to choose the inspector after consultation with the Diocesan Board of Education.
In practice and in order to minimise the workload for schools the inspection is organised by officers of Chester Diocesan Board of Education through Liverpool Diocesan Board of Education.
The Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools (SIAMS) reports will provide a different but complementary perspective on Church of England schools in relation to Ofsted’s findings.
The date of the inspection is based on the outcome of the previous inspection. For Good and Outstanding schools it will be at least every 5 years and for satisfactory or less schools it will be between 3 and 5 years.
The purposes of the inspection are:
- to provide an evaluation of the distinctiveness and effectiveness of the Church of England school for the governing body, the school, the parents, the diocese, the National Society and the wider public;
- to meet the requirements of Section 48 of the Education Act 2005 for schools which have a religious character;
- to verify the outcome of the Church of England school’s self-evaluation;
- to make a significant contribution to improvement in Church of England schools.
The key characteristic of the inspection is the focus on the effect that the Christian ethos of the Church school has on the learner.
Governors will be involved:
- in the school’s self - evaluation as a church school
- in supporting the headteacher and staff in developing the school’s Christian distinctiveness
- in the development of a Christian based mission statement
- in the development of a collective worship policy
- in ensuring that RE is viewed as a central focus in school
- by ensuring that all policies take into account the school’s Church foundation and that parents are made visibly aware of the school’s church school status (eg external signage, prospectus)
- on the day of inspection through support of the school and in discussions with the inspector
All governors bring with them a particular and valid perspective. It is important to ground an individual's perspective in a sound knowledge of the school as a whole. Reading the school prospectus and other papers and statistics is a useful starting point, but cannot be a substitute for first-hand knowledge, that is, a visit to the school during "working" hours.
2. TIME OFF WORK
Some governors find it difficult to take time off work in order to visit their school. Under employment law, employees are entitled to 'reasonable time off' to carry out their duties as a governor. There needs to be agreement between the employee and employer as to what 'reasonable time off' means in practice. It will be necessary to consider the amount of time needed to carry out the duties; the effects of an employee's absence on the employer's business; and whether time off is given to the employee for other activities. An employer is not obliged to give time off with pay.
Some governors find it difficult to get time off work during the school day: governing bodies need to be sensitive to this and ensure, as far as possible, that all governors benefit from the experiences of those who are able to get into school during the working day.
3. SCHOOL VISITS POLICY
Governors make important decisions about their schools and it is vital that those decisions are grounded in a sound, first-hand knowledge of the school.
Part of the governing body's role is to monitor the progress of the school development plan and also the teaching and learning that takes place in the school; it is very difficult to fulfil this role without visiting the school. Schools are, however, complex places and it is vital that visits are organised properly in consultation with the headteacher. Governing bodies should ensure they have a visits policy for governors to ensure that governors have a clear purpose and protocol to follow when visiting school.
Many governing bodies choose to link governors to a class, year group or curriculum subject; in this way individual governing bodies can get to know part of the school in greater depth and develop relationships with staff and pupils.
4. GROUND RULES FOR EFFECTIVE SCHOOL VISITS
There are four main rules for an effective school visit:
Clear agreed aims
Governing bodies should be clear about why governors need to visit and draw up a planned programme of visits; individual governors must know why they are visiting the school;
Clear channels of communication
Visits must be arranged in consultation with the headteacher and other staff. Feedback is an important part of any visit. Any concerns must always be discussed with the headteacher in the first instance;
Governors should be as fully prepared as possible; read relevant policy documents and talk to more experience governors and the headteacher;
If you are visiting a classroom, try to put yourself in the place of the teacher, remember that you are not there as an inspector, sharing your anxieties beforehand may help to improve the partnership.
5. BEFORE YOU VISIT
First answer a few questions:
- Why are you visiting the school?
- Is this your first visit? (If yes, see next section)
- Will you go alone or accompanied?
- Will you have a "focus" for your visit? (You cannot expect to find out everything in one go.)
- Are you up-to-date with what is happening in your school?
- Is your visit part of a planned rota of visits?
6. PLANNING YOUR FIRST VISIT
A first visit to school will be a familiarisation process. If you are a parent, you may be familiar with a particular class or year group, but have little knowledge of what happens in the rest of the school; others may not have visited a school for a long time. Governors planning their first visit should consider the following:
- going with an experienced governor who is used to visiting, or at least talking to other governors who have visited the school;
- accepting any offer from the headteacher, staff or pupils of a guided tour of the school;
- finding out what material is available and reading it before your visit, eg, school prospectus, previous governors' annual reports, school policies on more general aspects of school life, eg, behaviour policy;
- If you are new to "education" your headteacher may be able to supply you with information on the particular stage of education which concerns you, whether nursery, infant, junior, or secondary.
7. ARRANGING A VISIT
First and foremost, always make an appointment with the headteacher and plan with him/her what you will do during your visit. You cannot expect to learn everything about the school in one visit, concentrating on one aspect, which interests you, is a good starting point.
If you are visiting a class make sure you liaise closely with the teacher, you will need to be flexible and respond to situations in the classroom as they arise. Make sure that the teacher is happy for you to sit with the children and to talk to them before you do so.
8. WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Depending on the type of visit, you may wish to answer some questions for yourself, below are some examples:
- How many pupils are there in a class and are they overcrowded?
- Are the pupils working alone or in groups?
- Is there enough equipment/books to go round?
- Are all pupils occupied on the same task?
- What is the atmosphere like in class and corridors - is it quiet/calm or noisy?
- Is there an adequate, comfortable staff room?
- Are there attractive displays on the walls?
- Is the library well stocked and well used?
9. AFTER YOUR VISIT
Always thank the headteacher, staff and pupils for their time, it is not always easy to cope with visitors on a busy day! If you visited a particular class, you may wish to write to the pupils and class teacher.
If possible, before you leave the school talk over your impressions with the headteacher.
If you intend to write a brief report for the governors ensure that the headteacher knows this and let him/her see a copy before it is circulated to the governors. If you have any serious misgivings or questions you must discuss these first with the headteacher and chair of governors.
If you are presenting a report based on a class or departmental visit, the class teacher or head of department should be invited to the meeting when the report is discussed. Always inform an individual if they have been named in a report before the report is circulated.
Visiting your school should be a pleasant experience; time spent in preparing for your visit will reap benefits since you will have a clearer idea of what you are trying to achieve. Visits are an opportunity for getting alongside the headteacher, staff and pupils; being with pupils may be daunting to some governors at first, but it will serve as a reminder that you are a governor essentially in order to benefit the children in the school's care.
Governors should conduct themselves in line with the Nolan Principles of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
Governors should seek to uphold the Christian foundation of the school.
Governors are responsible for determining the overall strategic direction of their schools but should take care not to become involved with the management. The distinction between managing and governance is important.
Allegiance to the School
There is a need for a positive and effective partnership between the governing body, the headteacher and the senior management team. To foster this, individual governors should:
- Support the aims, objectives and Christian ethos of the school and promote the interests of the school and its pupils in the wider community;
- Work co-operatively with other governors in the best interests of the school.;
- Acknowledge that differences of opinion may arise in discussion of issues but where the governing body take a majority decision, this decision must be respected and upheld;
- Maintain confidentiality when required;
- Base their decisions on the facts presented, and not be swayed by other considerations;
- Attend the governors meetings and make sure that if they elect to serve on sub-committees they have the time to do so;
- Be willing to undergo appropriate training.
Members of governing bodies should have the following information:
- The relevant edition of the DfE governors' handbook;
- A copy of the Instrument of Government;
- A list of members of the governing body, giving name, type of governor, date of appointment and, if agreed, telephone number;
- The governing body’s agreed procedures or standing orders;
- A list of committees and working parties of the governing body, with membership and terms of reference;
- A copy of the staffing structure of the school, showing names of teachers and other staff, subjects (or years) taught and other responsibilities;
- The school’s current prospectus;
- The current development plan or summary of the plan;
- The most recent governing body report to parents;
- The most recent Ofsted and Denominational inspection report on the school;
- The action plans relating to the inspections;
- A list of all the policies adopted by the governing body and information on how copies can be obtained;
- Information about governors visits to the school and how they are managed;
- A calendar of governing body and committee meetings, school terms and holidays; and major school events for the current year.
For new governors:
- A plan of the school;
- The minutes of the most recent governing body meetings. It may be helpful to brief a new governor if there are any difficult of contentious decisions being made by the governing body.