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Governorship Unleashed: The Vital Role of School Governors in Shaping Education Excellence

Overhead board meeting school governors

The individuals who guide and oversee educational institutions play a crucial role in ensuring their success. Among these key figures, school governors stand as pillars of support, contributing significantly to the development and progress of schools. This article touches on the multifaceted role of a school governor and the impact they have on their schools.


Guardians of Governance

At its core, the role of a school governor revolves around governance and decision making. Governors are responsible for providing strategic leadership and accountability within a school. Their decisions influence the school’s ethos, policies, and overall direction. A governing body works collaboratively with school leadership, staff, parents, and the wider community to create an environment conducive to learning and growth.

In order to ensure legal compliance and effective governance, governors will need to keep themselves and school staff up to date with relevant legal requirements and updates as well as training.

Governors are charity trustees, with a responsibility to preserve charitable assets and uphold the objects of the charity (both governing bodies of certain types of maintained schools and academy trusts are exempt charities). Where governors are also trustees or directors of an academy trust, they have a responsibility under the Companies Act 2006 to ensure proper corporate governance.

In addition to the above, by keeping abreast of educational trends and best practices, governors provide valuable insights that contribute to the school’s continuous improvement journey. As such, updated training and annual policy reviews are necessary (if not required), both of which you can seek our support with. The DfE have helpfully provided a table of statutory polices that must be held by schools along with their recommended or required review period. This is unlikely to be a static list however as education providers must keep pace with an ever-changing educational landscape. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our team if you have any queries.

Quality Assurance

Governors play a pivotal role in monitoring and evaluating school performance. They review data, assess educational outcomes, and hold school leadership to account. By closely examining areas of improvement and success, governors facilitate a culture of continuous enhancement, driving schools towards greater achievements.

Governors can provide an independent perspective and be a second pair of eyes for stretched leadership teams.

School exclusions and complaints are two specific parts of school life which highlight the significance of a governor’s role in the everyday monitoring of school behaviour and decision making.

For exclusions for example, governors act as a crucial check and balance. In accordance with the Department for Education’s updated Suspension and Permanent Exclusion Guidance, where legally required to do so and in the specific circumstances set out in the guidance, school governors examine and review the reasons and decision for an exclusion within the specified legal time limits. This oversight aims to prevent any unsubstantiated positions being taken in respect of exclusions, ultimately guaranteeing that the student’s rights and well-being are upheld but also the school’s reputation. Challenging where necessary and taking any learning points forward in a progressive and positive way.

Community Engagement

A school is deeply integrated into its surrounding community, and school governors act as bridges between the school and its stakeholders. They foster strong relationships with parents, local authorities, and the wider community, ensuring that the school remains attuned to the needs and aspirations of those it serves. This connection helps create an inclusive and harmonious educational environment. It can however also require a bit of management.

Managing Complaints

There is no doubt that there is an increasing tendency towards formal complaints. Whilst that might help to maintain high standards, it can also be draining for leadership teams.

Complaints brought against the school by the school community for example are quite often initially directed to school governors individually. If this occurs, it is important that governors direct complainants to the relevant school policy for them to engage and follow. This is not only important for consistency, but it ensures governors do not become entangled in a complaint when their input may be required at a later stage.

Additionally, we find that many schools try to resolve a complaint informally. Whilst initially this may be the best approach, should matters not resolve, the complainant should be directed to the next stage of the school’s complaints policy. Keeping complaints within the constraints of the school’s complaints policy ensures that there is a process to follow for all parties involved, and importantly, that there is an end to that process. So long as the school has conducted itself in accordance with a legally compliant complaints policy, and the complaint has been investigated, addressed and resolved from the school’s reasonable prospective, and there are no other issues of concern, the school should be in a good position should matters escalate with third parties such as the ESFA and Ofsted.

There are however various complaint topics that should not be addressed via the school’s complaints policy due to there being a separate process in place, and the DfE’s best practice guidance for academies complaints procedures sets these out under the heading ‘complaints not in scope’.

Following the above, the role of a school governor is clearly far-reaching and impactful. These dedicated individuals play a vital part in steering educational institutions towards excellence. Their governance, strategic decision-making, financial oversight, community engagement, and commitment to educational progression collectively contribute to creating a nurturing and thriving environment for students and educators alike.

We at Winckworth Sherwood pride ourselves on our purpose driven work; advising schools in their time of need. We can assist governors with strategic planning, policy reviews, training (for example in safeguarding, special educational needs, exclusions, admissions and complaints), as well as queries in respect of discreet matters or concerns. We regularly provide notes on legal updates and if you have not done so already, we encourage you to join our mailing list so that we can support you throughout your adventure of being a school governor.

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