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 board 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. This section introduces the role of governors. For more information, look at the web links.
Contents of this section:
1.Types of Church schools
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 board of an academy or VA school has more autonomy in some areas of policy than a governing board of a VC school.
Academy and VA school governing boards differ from other maintained schools, in that, they are responsible for: the admissions policy of the school; the buildings and their upkeep, and are the employers of most of the staff in the school. VA governing boards also have responsibility for setting the religious education and collective worship policy (for academies agreements made with the Secretary of State define these responsibilities).
You will find more information about the differences by clicking here.
The structure of each maintained school is set out in its 'Instrument of Government' this is a legal document that sets out the numbers and categories of each governor based on DFE requirements. It is important to note that any additions or removals in terms of types of governors must be done by changing the Instrument of Government which is a statutory process.
The governing board includes foundation governors appointed by the Diocesan Board of Education (DBE), in some cases the local church through its PCC 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 board (or Board of Directors/Trustees) will be decided by the academy trust and depend on agreements made with the Secretary of State and the DBE. The minimum size that a governing board for a VC school can be is 7 and 12 in a VA school.
The rest of the Board is made up of at least 2 elected parents, 1 elected staff member, a local authority (LA) representative and, in some schools, members co-opted by the governing board. As the foundation governors in an aided school must be in a majority of two this means that for each co-opted member a further foundation governor should be added to the Instrument of Government. Schools may also have associate members who are appointed for the additonal skills or experience they bring to a particular committee. They are not stated on the instrument of government and have limited voting rights.
The structure in an academy is set out in its Articles of Association and Scheme of Delegation for Local Governing Bodies.
The governing board 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. Decision making
No matter how appointed or elected all governors bring a valid perspective to the governing board. The responsibility for decisions made at governing board meetings does not rest with any individual governor, or a small group of governors, but with the whole governing board. Responsibility for decisions is, therefore, a corporate matter and it is important then that governors understand this even if they do not agree with the majority decision.
A governing board 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 board 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 board.
Every governor whether appointed, elected or ex officio has the same duties and responsibilities. Foundation governors are included on church school governing boards specifically in order to maintain and develop the Christian foundation of the school.
Foundation governors should therefore have a particular concern for the distinctive Christian vision of the school, religious education and collective worship. They should also seek to maintain and develop the links with the local church. However as the vision for the school is owned by the governing board as a whole, it would be expected that all governors, regardless of their category, would strive to ensure the school's distinctive vision is developed and informs decision making. For maintained schools an ethos statement is included in the Instrument of Government which clearly states the basis for church school education:
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.
In addition to this statement the school will have a vision statement that is particlar to the school and its context and that is Biblically rooted and reflects the Christian foundation of the school.
Foundation governors, because of their experience and faith, are best placed to support the governing board in these aspects of its work.