School Governor - How to get the most out of the board

Stephen McArdle
Stephen McArdle

Published: June 28th, 2023

7 min read

There is little doubt that the past few years have been incredibly challenging for schools from lock down and remote / blended learning through to academisations and unfunded pay rises and ever tighter school budgets. Careful financial management and the need to generate new revenue streams is critical.

The role of the governing board has arguably never been more important from a strategic assistance point of view. The governing body has the obligation to ensure the school functions through a high standard of achievement and education for pupils. Whilst the responsibility for the operation of the school will always rest with the school leadership, governors must support that operational role by ensuring that the systems are in place so that the school is protected as far as possible from the modern challenges which schools face, safeguarding the constitution of the school, ensuring that the right level of scrutiny is in place and all policies and procedures are fit for purpose and suitable.

The board must continually self-reflect to ensure it has the right skill set, leadership and is able to draw on each member's experience to support the school leadership collectively and individually. Governors should undertake a skills audit annually (as a minimum) to ensure effectiveness. Looking to recruit professionals and other key practitioners in areas such as accounting, education, law and business can all add skill-sets and real benefits to the governing board's contribution to the school.

Each governor, no matter what type of school they are in must fulfil their 3 core functions:

  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • Ensuring clarity of strategic direction.

Governors must comply with the 'Nolan' principles of public service: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.

The key to a governor's role will be scrutiny - check everything, ask questions in meetings and document it. There will need to be additional focus on safety and management of risk (financial and otherwise) as well as contingency plan. Each school leadership should look for and expect their board to provide this level of support and scrutiny.

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