Saturday, 16 January 2016

Become a School Governor

I sit on two school governing bodies now - Maendy Primary School, and Croesyceiliog Secondary School. They're both schools I once attended and this week, as I was walking along the same old route to a meeting at my old comprehensive, it got me thinking about how I never imagined I'd end up sitting next to my old teachers questioning school finances. But if I can do it, so can you. Read on for how and, perhaps more importantly, why -

What is a school governor?


The NGA (National Governors' Association) covers the basics when it says, 'school governors are people who want to make a positive contribution to children's education'. Because the children don't need to be yours. In fact, you don't need to have any children. You don't even have to like children. The only real requirements to be a school governor are a) be over 18, and b) be willing to give up your time to attend meetings.

What does a school governor do?


Your main function as a governor is to be a 'critical friend' to the headteacher and SLT (Senior Leadership Team). They will present you with all the relevant facts and figures, and you will then ask questions and work with them to:

  set aims and objectives for the school;
  adopt policies for achieving those aims and objectives;
  set targets for achieving those aims and objectives; and
  review progress towards achieving the aims and objectives.

That sounds like so much official rot, I know, so here's an example of how that works in practice. Let's say the aim is that all children should have as close to full attendance as possible, to ensure they're making the most of their education. The objective, then, is to lower the number of unauthorised absences. To help achieve this you adopt attendance policies, perhaps drawn up from scratch, more likely supplied by the LEA (Local Education Authority) or similar body. Based on the policy you will then set a target, remembering that Estyn (or relevant inspectorate) will want to see you being both aspirational and realistic. To review progress, you would then see the latest figures on a regular basis, and go back through the target setting process annually.

Just this week it has been headline news that, in Wales, it is unlawful to put a blanket ban on term time holidays. Many LEAs and governing bodies had put one in their policies though, and lots of parents will now be appealing the fixed penalty notices they were given as a result. What the headlines seem to have ignored is that getting that absence authorised is still up to headteacher discretion, and you can be sure the LEA and the governing body will be advising they use that power sparingly. Ten days absence brings a pupil's attendance down to 94.7%, not an Estyn pleasing figure.

This whole business might have you asking,

What happens when you get things wrong?


Sometimes governors aren't kept up to date with legal changes, or don't really know what's going on in their school. They're reliant on the SLT for data in-year, while some might struggle to interpret the data they do get. If things go belly up, the buck stops with the governing body. But. Providing you act honestly and in good faith, you are not personally liable. Instead liability falls on the governing body as a whole. If things get that bad, the LEA will step in and replace the governors.

Now your worries have been alleviated, you might be thinking,

Okay, what does being a school governor involve?


You will need to attend a meeting of the full governing body every half term or so. In addition, you will be expected to join one or two subcommittees (e.g. finance, or learning and teaching). Meetings are held after school and tend to last around two hours for a full meeting, less for a subcommittee. The exception is if you are a member of the staffing or disciplinary panels - these meetings, though much more infrequent, may well be held during school time. If you're a glutton for punishment, you can try for chair and the accompanying pre-meetings.

You will also need to undergo training. In Wales, at minimum, you need to do a governors' induction session, and one on understanding school data. There will be plenty of other sessions on too, looking at topics like school health and safety, corporate parenting, and chairing skills. Most LEAs still insist on people attending physical training sessions, because e-learning is (apparently) a mystical concept.

If you're less confident about it all, or simply have less time to spare, go for a primary school governing body. They tend to be much smaller, have less to deal with in terms of exam results and other issues, and you get to sit on those little tiny chairs again. It does make it a bit weird when you get the inevitable invites to prize evening, school plays, choral events, etc - unless you're a teacher, childless adults are probably always going to feel out of place at a primary nativity!

Lucius Malfoy
As a school governor you'll be in good company - even Draco Malfoy's dad, Lucius, took time out from being evil to take Dumbledore to task over his questionable record on student welfare.

What do I get out of it?


The warm glow of selflessness? Or, if the 'Big Society' doesn't float your boat, you get to learn the ins and outs of things you might not otherwise get the chance to. No longer will acronyms like SDP (School Development Plan) and PDG (Pupil Deprivation Grant) leave you baffled. When education is in the news, you'll have the ammo to argue your point, and I can guarantee you'll learn surprising things about the gap between perception and reality on all sorts of issues. If you have school age children, the benefits are obvious, in terms of knowing what is happening behind the scenes, but even if you don't you're still getting to help shape the education of the next generation. And that's a pretty big thing, when you think about it.

I'm sold. Where do I sign up?


There are a few routes to governorship. The less likely routes are:

  Observer Governors. This might be a member of the SLT who sits in to give extra information, even though they lack voting rights.
  Associate Governors. These are often current pupils who have no voting rights, and are excluded from confidential issues (e.g. staffing), but are nevertheless invited along to meetings to give a voice to the student body.

The more likely routes are:

  Foundation / Partnership / Sponsor Governors. These are appointed by a funding body, if the school has one - e.g. the diocese for a church school.
  Staff Governors. This is the primary route in for teachers and paid school staff, who are elected to vacancies by their colleagues.
  Co-opted aka Community Governors. Members of the local community co-opted by the governing body. These might be retired teachers, teachers from other schools, former pupils, or anyone else deemed suitable. (For Torfaen, email the EAS - Education Achievement Service - at governor.support@sewaleseas.org.uk if you're interested in becoming a community governor.)
  Authority aka LEA Governors. These are governors appointed by the local authority - principally elected councillors. If you're interested in becoming an authority governor, contact your local council.
  Parent Governors. What it says on the tin. In many ways this is the hardest route in as these are elected positions. When a vacancy comes up you put your name down and charm / bribe other parents into voting for you. (Note - you may not stand as a parent governor if you're an elected councillor or work at the school for more than 500 hours pa.)

Take the plunge - it's easier than you think!


Are you / have you thought about becoming a school governor?








Linking up to -
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking SundaythumbnailsizeBubbablue and me school days linky

27 comments:

  1. Sounds like something really worthwhile, well done!

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    1. Thanks :) I've been on the one for a few years now, and it's really interesting to see how everything fluctuates year on year. I don't know if I'd have upped it to two off my own back though!

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  2. Great post, very informative. I had no idea you could be a school governor if you didn't have children. I think in a way it could be better, as there will be no conflict of interest where you consider how the decision could affect your own routine etc. #KCACOLS
    Debbie

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    1. Yeah, I find that parent and non-parent governors often have quite different views on things, so it's good to get that mix and reach a compromise. x

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  3. Here in the US I have never heard of school governors .... Just principals and the PTA (Parent/Teacher) conferences. Sounds like an interesting journey though and I love your tongue in cheek humor about parts of it. #KCACOLS 💌Trista

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    1. I didn't know there weren't governors in the US! Some schools here have PTAs too, but they tend to be more for fundraising and things like that.

      Hehe, yeah, you have to laugh about things, I think! :)

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  4. Good for you Fi being on two. My hubby is on our Infants one and is thinking about going for the juniors too. I work in Childcare as a Business Manager and I quite fancied it but not sure if I would be able to keep up. There are lots of very clever people. What's you view on that?

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    1. I'd say it's all about confidence - believe in yourself!! You'll have to do an induction and some training anyway to bring you up to speed, and with your background you're already better placed than most. Lots of people go into it knowing nothing about education - councillors, for example, are generally expected to sit on two to make up LEA vacancies though it doesn't mean they have any previous experience. I was working for a youth charity when I first started but I had no idea about most of it, you soon start to pick it up though. x

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  5. I didn't know you could be a school governor if you didn't have children. Anyway, we don't have governors over here on our side of the pond.

    #KCACOLS

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  6. This is such an informative and very well explained post. Well done you for sitting on not one but two governing post!xx #KCACOLS

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    1. Thank you! Hehe, I sometimes regret it when I have two lots in the same week though ;)

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  7. This was such a great post! And so informative It's definitely food for thought

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    1. Thank you! I'm really glad it's nice and clear, I made OH read it through for a change for me :)

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  8. I was a community governor for a lovely primary school in the area I used to work. This was well before kids and I had to stop when my job changed. I'd love to do it again and think I will at my own children's schools. #KCACOLS

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    1. I think it's such a nice way of getting involved. Even if it is a bit more formal than the PTA or something, you do get to see all the details. x

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  9. This is a really informative post. I never knew you could be a school governor even if you don't have children! I think its a great idea to have both parent and non parent governors!

    Thanks so much for linking up to #KCACOLS I hope to see you back again on Sunday

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    1. I always find it surprising who agrees and disagrees with things. Like, on the secondary school board the non-parents were all for reducing the amount of homework, while the parents wanted it increased! It's just not what I'd have imagined at all. :)

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  10. I never knew that you could be a school governor without having children, that is great if you want to take part in the school. Also when you get children, to understand the school system your children are in. Great post!

    www.brandobeauty.uk

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    1. Exactly! If we don't move in the interim my daughter will probably go to both of the schools I'm on the board of now - it's really helped me stay up to date with what's happening at the schools, and in the wider curriculum, so hopefully I'll have more of an idea what to expect. x

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  11. Really informative. I've never really thought about what a school governor dies but this has enlightened me. Thanks for linking up to #justanotherlinky xx

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    1. Thank you! I've found that lots of people don't really know what it's all about, so it seemed the perfect topic for a post. :)

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  12. Great information for someone who doesn't know and for someone who is thinking about it. I honestly couldn't have the time for it.
    Thanks for linking up with #justanotherlinky

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    1. Yeah, it can be hard to fit everything in - some evenings I have a three way clash at the moment so you're constantly trying to decided which meeting is more important.

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  13. It's interesting to hear more about school governors. It's a mystery to me, although it does quite appeal to have a nosy at the behind the scenes thing, I just don't have the time to do it.

    Thanks for linking up to #schooldays

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    1. It's really interesting, but it can take up quite a bit of time - especially if you end up on a lot of the committees. x

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