In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, there are around 370,000 people serving as school governors. Ever thought about joining them? Being a school governor isn’t a paid role, but is an opportunity to contribute to your local community. Here’s everything you need to know about this important role.
Who Can Be a Governor?
Anyone over the age of 18 can apply to be a school governor. Although it’s a common myth, you don’t have to be the parent of a child at the school, have been to the school yourself, or indeed have any other connection with the school. The minimum number of governors is nine and the maximum is twenty, made up of a mixture of staff, parents and other members of the community. Independent schools may also have governing bodies, but set their own rules about who sits on those bodies. You won’t be paid for your role as a governor, but might be able to claim expenses.
Duties of Governors
In schools with governors, the Headteacher still takes day to day control over the running of the school. The governors are there to look at the larger picture, think about whether the school is headed in the right direction, and to be there to challenge decisions made by the Head if necessary. Governors are involved in the recruitment and interviewing process for new senior members of staff, and setting performance targets. They manage the school’s budget and may deal directly with parents in resolving disputes or dealing with children who have been excluded. Depending on the type of school, governors might also get involved with setting the admissions criteria and deciding who should be offered places at the school. By law, governors must meet at least three times per year (once a term), but might decide to meet more frequently than that. A large, busy secondary school with lots going on will demand a higher time commitment than a tiny village school, so if you’re interested in getting involved, choose your school carefully. Governors usually sign up for a period of four years, but might stay on for longer than that if they are asked to do so, and happy to continue.
Checking On Governors
Any vacancy for school governors should be advertised, and should there be more applicants than vacancies, an election is held. Before starting work as a governor all applicants have to be DBS checked. This is a legal requirement for all types of schools, including independent schools. The school or Local Authority will be able to guide new governors through the DBS process, which involves first proving their identity by showing passports and other identity documents to the school, then submitting a form for police checking. People who have criminal convictions aren’t automatically banned from volunteering as a school governor in the future. Schools will look at any information given on a DBS form and decide on a case by case basis whether the person is a good fit for the governor role.