Sunday, September 30, 2018

School Governors in England

In England, the overall running of most schools both in the  state and private sectors, usually including academies and free schools, is overseen by governing bodies. In state maintained  schools these are often appointed by or through churches, local authorities, religious orders, staff and parents. In many but not all, private schools governors, are appointed by the trustees of the school often upon the recommendations of existing governors.

Additionally many governing bodies employ a  clerk upon a part time basis to minute meetings and give legal advice. Some groups of schools share a full time clerk, who may then  have his or her own office and staff to facilitate the clerk's work

Governors meet  as a full group, at least once a term but committees of governors then also meet termly and there are usually two or three such committees.

Overall the experience of being a governor over the past 30 years or so and more recently, clerk to one governing body is very positive. There can be difficulties of course with staffing issues, grievance and disciplinary procedures being perhaps the most common. Governors in such times however can usually turn to the school's  solicitors for advice and assistance when necessary.

In earlier years one issue was that of redundancies when money became tight or pupil numbers fell. More recently the issue has been that of increasing the school's size and involving contractors with new building. 

Inspections,  for example through OFSTED affect governing bodies which seek to assist their schools' heads and staff manage these successfully.  

Overall though being a school governor though often necessitating the proverbial rolling up of sleeves, is extremely rewarding irrespective of ones age or employment experience. Of course governing bodies may benefit from having on their boards former head teachers but many in practice benefit from having  parents of former pupils at the school, or  current parents,  surveyors, accountants nurses, lawyers or those who practice in other trades or professions or did so before retirement, among their membership.

Perhaps the most unusual governing body meeting which can be mentioned on a public blog that I can recall, took place over 30 years ago. 

I was not a governor there but was asked to attend as a young lawyer to watch, listen and report back to the school's proprietor.  The meeting commenced at about 6pm with a prayer then followed by tea and biscuits with the agenda being gone through fairly efficiently. However by about 7:30pm it became apparent that there was an issue in the school's carpentry classes. The  carpentry class team leader was called in to assist with the governors' deliberations. After a while it became apparent that the carpenters had a "side line" of arranging for furniture to be made at the school with pupils' assistance and then selling off that furniture to private buyers with the sale proceeds going to the adult carpenters at the school.

The meeting then proved to be anything but routine and as I remember many years after the event, instead of coming to an end at about 8pm the governing body did not leave the school until well after midnight.

For governors as well as staff, DSB checking is required - simple, quick for most and free of cost to the volunteer governor or staff member. As is clear from news reports, the issue of  usually historic, child abuse can very occasionally arise although these days as sadly, if not more so, perhaps peer on peer abuse is as common.  I should add that neither issue has ever arisen at the two schools at which I still have involvement.

As indicated earlier though, being  school governor whether at primary or secondary school level and whether at state or private schools or the various type of educational institution in between, can be extremely fulfilling. Most governing bodies will arrange to have meals together to unwind from time to time. Training also tends to be freely available  not only for new governors but also  to assist all, in keeping abreast of new developments.

Hopefully anyone reading this blog of whatever age, might investigate further and perhaps consider applying, as there is currently a shortage of school governors in England. 

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