Becoming a school governor
What do the governors do?
Governors are either elected as parents, or staff, or appointed for specific needs from the community or local authority. In total there are up to twenty governors at any one time. The members of the governing body then have responsibilities for many different areas, including child welfare, staffing, curriculum, finance, premises and training. In addition, governors also have oversight for specific curriculum areas and year group responsibilities where they follow a particular year group as they move through the school.
They are part of the whole school team and therefore involved in shaping the future vision and annual plans of the school.
What skills do I need to have to be a governor?
The most important attribute to any governor is a real passion for the children and the school. It is important that the governors understand the vision for the children, and are willing to get involved. It is equally as important for governors to be able to see and understand what is going on in the classroom and understand the impact of curriculum and pastoral matters, as well as having oversight for financial, legal, personnel issues.
The governing body is made up of a wide range of people, some with the ability to spend time in the school on a regular basis looking at curriculum, emotional and safety issues, and some with professional or commercial experience in certain areas such as finance, legal, communications and personnel. All share the same vital ingredient – a keen interest in the children and the school, which makes them prepared and willing to get involved with school life at every level.
How much time commitment is involved in being a governor?
The short answer is as much as possible. In practice, each governor would be part of a sub-committee which meets twice a term in the evenings, and the full governing body which also meets twice a term. In addition, it is hoped that governors would be able to spend some time in the school during the school day and be able to support school association events.
In reality, most governors devote much more time to their responsibilities, whether helping on school trips with their year group, or picking up other areas of need as required.
Do I have to commit to a long period of time?
The normal term for a governor is 4 years, although you can resign at any time. That said, it does take time to understand the full breadth of the governor responsibilities. Experience suggests the first year is spent ‘learning the ropes’, so it is worth being prepared to give a minimum of two years.
Can I get involved in areas of interest to me, or would I be assigned responsibilities?
There are many aspects of the school the governors have responsibility or oversight for, and it always makes sense to allow the governors to use the skills they have or play a part in the specific areas they have a keen interest. In addition, there are likely to be areas where we would encourage governors to take oversight in order to get a fuller all round understanding of the governor responsibilities
I work full-time and cannot get into school during the day, can I still get involved?
We have a number of governors who find it difficult to spend much time in school during the school day, but make efforts to do so when they can. Many companies will have a policy to encourage voluntary or community work and may allow some time off for these duties.
There is enormous benefit both for governors and the school for governors to make some time available for school visits from time to time.
I cannot commit to evenings, can I be involved during the school day?
Equally, some governors have more time in the school day which enables them to see much more how the school is operating and how the children are developing. Their time provides invaluable input to the governing body in identifying needs and shaping the future.
Governors do need to be able to commit to make the majority of full governing body meetings, and the committees certainly have enough work to do which required them to be at full strength.
Is there much preparation needed before meetings?
There is normally a few hours of preparatory work ahead of each meeting. In addition, as the school does not stand still between meetings, a large amount of work outside of the meetings in terms of school visits, discussions and training
Can I come along to a meeting to see what happens?
The meetings are publicised and are open meetings. If you were considering becoming a governor, then it would be possible to come along to one of the meetings.
Will I receive training as a new governor?
We receive a lot of support in terms of training from the local authority, which starts with a general induction process. In addition, any new governor would normally spend some time with the Headteacher and we are introducing a ‘buddy’ system for new governors.
Is there any financial help available?
The governor role is a voluntary one, so the governing body cannot provide compensation for, say, loss of earnings. It does, however, have an expenses policy for items such as baby-sitting costs and travel for meetings and training courses outside of Sevenoaks.