What does a Governing Body (GB) do?
The simple answer to this is that it supports the work of the school. It provides a different perspective from that of the staff and can help the school to plan for the future and to monitor that it is doing what it says it is doing. It also helps to evaluate the effectiveness of the school’s activities. In short, it acts as a critical friend.
What the Governing Body does not do is to get involved in the day-to-day running of the school. You must be clear that this is the responsibility of the Headteacher. Although members of the GB may have skills that they can use to support the school e.g. in finance or health and safety, it is important to remember not to tell the staff how to do their jobs. Although we probably all have an idea of what makes a good teacher, governors do not get involved in making judgements about teachers. The GB’s role is to ensure that there are arrangements in place for the Head and senior staff to monitor how staff are performing.
Why do schools have governing bodies?
The simple answer is to help them to fulfill their mission: to provide the best possible education for their pupils. A governing body can do this by:
- helping the school to set high standards by planning for the school's future and setting targets for school improvement
- being a true friend to the school, in good times and bad times, offering the school its support, advice and challenge
- challenging the school to continually strive for improvement in all it does
- monitoring the progress on plans the school has for its development and monitoring the impact of these plans
- helping the school to be responsive to the needs of the community and making the school more accountable to the public for what it does.
There are also some quite specific powers and duties. Here is a list of some of the most important areas in which governors have to be active:
- Standards - ensuring a strategic and systematic approach to promoting high standards of educational achievement.
- Targets - settings appropriate targets for pupil achievement and monitoring results against targets.
- Policies -deciding how, in broad strategic terms, the school should be run.
- Finance -determining how to spend the budget allocated to the school and monitoring expenditure.
- Staffing -deciding the number of staff, the pay policy and making decisions on staff pay.
- Appointments -appointing the Head and Deputy Headteacher and other staff.
- Discipline -agreeing procedures for staff conduct and discipline.
- Inspection follow up - drawing up an action plan after inspection.
- Complaints – see below.
In addition, in Voluntary Aided schools governors are responsible for religious education, collective worship, admissions, premises and the employment of staff.
It should be comforting to know that there are very few decisions that a governing body would have to make without the advice of the Headteacher.
It is very important to emphasise:
- that governors have responsibility at policy-making level, not in the day-by-day running of the school
- that authority belongs to the Governing Body as a whole; the individual governor has no power to make decisions or take action
- that once a decision is made, a governor accepts the collective responsibility that comes with being a governor, even if it is a decision that they argued against.
Every Governing Body has adopted a Complaints Policy for its school. This Policy must be complied with by all involved, progressing through Stages 1 (teacher level) and 2 (Headteacher level), before the Governing Body can become involved (Stage 3). When a complaint reaches Stage 3 of the process the Governing Body’s complaints committee will need to meet to consider the complainants concerns.
It’s important to note that GBs and individual governors cannot be involved in dealing with concerns or complaints until the appropriate stage of the Complaints Policy (Stage 3).
To submit a formal complaint, a member of the public should contact the school and request a copy of its Complaints Policy if this is not available on the school’s website.