Governor Profiles – Case Studies of the work of different governor roles
My role as Community Governor
Governor A has been a community governor at Primary School B for twelve years, taking the role of chair for the past five. She’s also a local authority governor at Primary School C and Primary School D.
What first attracted you to the position?
Hard to say! I like the intimacy and fun of primary schools. There is still room for them to consider learning in the round. And being a governor enabled me to get to know a fascinating area of education off my professional beat (I work as a consultant in adult learning).
What is the most challenging aspect?
Getting the balance of the role right – when to support and when to be critical; when to get stuck in and when to stand back. Many colleagues would add that simply understanding the education world and its language is difficult and daunting.
What is the most rewarding?
It sounds very feeble to say it, but knowing that you have made a difference. One of the attractive aspects of being a primary school governor is that there is probably more room to feel you have done that.
What do you think your governing body does well?
At School A I am very proud of the way we use governors’ skills. We have conducted a long and successful campaign to improve our buildings. Work is now starting on an extension and major remodelling and refurbishment of our dysfunctional building. The project is led at our end by the head and two governors with specialist knowledge of property development and building, and I think we have got the sharing of skills and the workload right. We have also developed some good policies and we have improved communications with parents. And I like our meetings, which are lively and not too formal.
Are there areas where your governing body could further develop?
We are not yet appropriately involved in self-evaluation. This may be because of governors’ workloads – most have full-time jobs, so making time without upsetting staff members’ work-life balance can be tricky! We have also agreed that we need to rebalance governing body meetings to make time for more substantial discussions of important and interesting topics.
What do you think is the biggest issue that schools and governing bodies face in the future?
For primary schools, there are two big and positive challenges: curriculum change and making the most of being an extended school. For governing bodies, I am very concerned about the intention in the DCSF five-year plan to reduce the size of governing bodies to make them more effective. I suspect the DCSF wants to make governors more like non-executive directors on a company board – but I don’t think that is what our role should be.
What makes a good governor?
You need to know what you can offer is complementary to the professional skills of the staff. Make yourself aware of the big picture – the big challenges for this particular school – and make sure your governing body has a chance to discuss them. And enjoy learning!
My role as Parent Governor
Governor B has been a parent governor at Primary School D for four years and has been vice-chair since October 2007. This summer the school has celebrated being judged outstanding by Ofsted, including with outstanding governance.
What made you want to become a governor?
It was not something I had planned to do, but when vacancies arose for parent governors when my daughter was in year 1 at Primary School D, I was encouraged to stand by a couple of friends associated with the school. I have worked for many years in higher education, equality and diversity or both together, currently as a university disability adviser. I am committed to ensuring learners have every opportunity to fulfil their potential, and becoming a parent governor seemed an ideal way to do this.
Your school’s Ofsted report judged the school to be outstanding with particularly strong leadership. What strengths does your governing body have that allowed the school to receive this judgement?
We have a very experienced chair, which helps hugely. The governing body also has a really good relationship with the school’s senior leadership team with a high level of mutual trust. In many ways our governing body’s job is made easy by our school’s excellent senior leadership team. The head has been in place for some time and this allows strategic and consistent leadership. Our governing body has a strong structure of committees that meet to look at specific areas, and working groups that work on particular tasks, such as our school’s disability equality scheme, which we recently completed.
What do you see as the most important features of an effective governing body?
Many things make an effective governing body, but it is important to recognise that the governing body does not need to make every decision – you need to trust the school leadership team. It sounds obvious but an effective governing body must also have committed governors willing to attend regularly and to keep abreast of local and national developments in education. One of the things I think makes our particular governing body so effective is its broad range of people who are each able to offer different skills and work together effectively. Last but not least, it is very useful to have someone who understands finance!
Despite your school’s recent success, are there any areas in which you think your governing body could improve?
Well I don’t want to go into too many specific details, but we are all aware that there is always room for improvement. We’ve been judged outstanding by Ofsted three times now, but the worst thing you can do is get complacent or to think the battle is won.
What are the greatest challenges of being a governor?
To do the job effectively a large time commitment is required, which can be a challenge. Keeping up with all the latest developments in the constantly changing world of education policy – both locally and nationally – can also be hard work. I must say though that I’m sure being a governor would be more challenging at a school that was not so well managed!
What do you enjoy most about being a parent governor?
It’s difficult not to sound trite, but I enjoy the fact that it is a chance to put something into the community. It is also immensely rewarding for the school to be judged as outstanding and to know that you have helped in a small way towards this. As a parent governor, you are in a different position from the other governors – you can judge the success of the school on perhaps the most important level of all – the happiness and progress of your child.
My role as Health Governor
‘The extent to which pupils adopt healthy lifestyles’ is a judgement which Ofsted will take into account during an inspection. Appointing a Health Governor is one way in which your governing body can contribute to improvement in this category. Governor C tells us about her role as Health Governor at Primary School E
I have been a health governor at the school for several years. At the very least, I try and meet with our PSHE co-ordinator every term. We talk about progress on the Healthy Schools Action Plan
(we achieved the Healthy Schools Gold Award in 2007 and so are now working to ensure all the changes are sustained and strengthened). We also discuss particular activities to promote health in school. Recently this has included a push to improve packed lunches and the possible introduction of a restorative justice approach to behaviour problems.
I keep an eye out for any possible organisations or interesting health projects elsewhere which might be useful to the school, and in governing body meetings I am often heard to raise concerns about the possible health and well-being consequences of items being discussed. We have recently been looking at the results of our annual staff well-being survey and working out how to further improve staff health, as well as discussing the implications of Swine Flu. I also try to keep abreast of the school policies related to health such as Sex and Relationship Education (SRE), Drugs, Anti-bullying/ Behaviour, Food & Drink, School Grounds and Health & Safety, as well as making sure they are reviewed regularly. I enjoy being a health governor and being able to promote a healthy learning environment in school that promotes the health and well-being of both our children and staff and as a consequence improves our pupils’ achievement.
My role as an…Authority governor
At governor support, we are often asked about the differences between types of governor. We spoke to a governor at a primary school about her role as an Authority governor:
Q: From your experience of serving as a governor, what do you think are the main responsibilities of a governor?
As part of the governing body of the school, I think that we have a responsibility to the staff, pupils and parents of our school, as well as to the wider community. Specifically, we have a duty to develop the strategic plan for the school, set targets, and challenge through monitoring and evaluating performance and practice. Other tasks that I have been involved in as a governor are staffing, managing the budget, and looking into behaviour and attendance issues. As chair of the curriculum committee, I have a special responsibility for helping to ensure that all children in the school have access to a broad and balanced curriculum.
Q: What do you understand about the specific duties of an Authority governor?
As any other governor, I must act in the best interests of the pupils at the school and work as a member of the governing body, but must also ensure that I am familiar with, and have considered, the views of the LA. I do this by reading any briefings and publications that are issued, as well as checking the website and making sure I am aware of the latest versions of any LA policies. I understand that I may be asked to explain these documents, and the LA perspective, to other governors if necessary. I also try to attend training sessions and events as often as I can.
If your school needs an Authority governor, you can contact your Governor Support Service via the links at the bottom of this page.