Being a school governor

(14 Posts)
Pigeonpost Tue 08-Mar-16 14:13:53

The DC's school is struggling to appoint a parent governor and I am wondering about putting my name forward. The school have set out what is involved but I'd be interested to hear from anyone with governor experience how onerous it is. I don't work and the DC are aged 7, 5 and 2 so we are committed to the school for sometime. Any advice?

PatriciaHolm Tue 08-Mar-16 15:04:28

I'm a parent governor.

We have full governing body meetings once a term, and subcommittee meetings (i'm on 2, we have 4) around once a term too, sometimes more if there are things that need agreeing. Our meetings are a mix of evening and daytimes. Each meeting will have a bunch of documents send round a week or so in advance (so I see the school accounts, for example, value statements, budgets; others see extensive documentation on pupil progress, learning etc).

There is a lot of paperwork and terminology to get your head around, and a fair amount of training that its a good idea to attend - I've done 3 sessions this year so far (all mornings). I do find it very interesting and engaging, but I know one of my predecessors found it all too much to combine with working. You need to be able to separate being a governor from being a parent as well; you aren't there to represent the parent's views, (you are a representative parent, not the parent's representative if you see what I mean!) and you must never discuss governor business with other parents.

Our school were looking for business and education related skills, and we do a skills assessment each year to make sure the FGB covers everything we need.

Cuttheraisins Tue 08-Mar-16 16:49:30

Same as Patricia but we also have link governors who have to monitor progress in specific areas (maths, English, early years, school trips, KS1, ks2, safeguarding, etc). So as key link governor for Maths, I visit some classrooms to see lessons, sample books, marking, discuss progress with head of maths, and produce a report twice or three times a year. That's on top of the full governing body meetings and subcommittee meetings and training. It is a commitment but it's worth it. Challenging also, and you have to be very discreet and never discuss issues outside the Governing body as most of the information is highly confidential.

Primaryteach87 Tue 08-Mar-16 16:52:14

Some schools will cover childcare expenses for training. Worth asking.

bojorojo Tue 08-Mar-16 17:43:01

I am a Governor. We have only two committees and the full governing body. We focus on strategic management but governors are expected to contribute to meetings with reports of visits they have made to the school to monitor the school development plan, subjects, pupil premium, SEND, Safeguarding etc. We treat meetings as "board" meetings where everything is sent out in advance and read in advance. Questions to the Head are submitted in advance. Our Headteacher's report to the Full Governing body was 39 pages long this term. Do be prepared to go into school, read lots, go on training (vital) and be good at data interrogation!

As a governor, you should not be considering the minutae of running the school and there are clearly defined roles for the Head and the governors. Lots of governors get too involved! I had a governor tell me at a training session that he wanted children to have software for writing because he thought writing with a pen would be obsolete soon. Not his problem! He does not design the national curriculum.

We have also done a lot of work on our self-evaluation. This includes looking at our priorities, developing a 5 year plan, looking at our strengths and weaknesses and getting ready for Ofsted!

bojorojo Tue 08-Mar-16 17:47:00

Also, do it!

Most information the GB discusses is not confidential. Only names are withheld - teachers and children. Minutes and agendas (of FGB and Committees) and all supporting information is available to parents upon request. The clerk should write the minutes in a style that does not spell out the names of teachers or children. Performance management and pay reviews are confidential. So is Pupil Premium information about individiaul children for example. Governing bodies are accountable and not secret.

ineedaholidaynow Tue 08-Mar-16 18:03:52

I have been a parent governor for 2 years. When I stood I was told it would involve 12 meetings a year and that was all!

For the latest elections I helped write the role description and expanded it somewhat to include the additional meetings, reports, reading, training required. It can take quite a bit of your time eg I spent all this afternoon in a meeting with the finance committee and HT discussing the new proposed budget for the year. This was an additional meeting to the normal finance committee meeting and as there were a number of questions raised there will undoubtedly be another meeting required.

I am a link governor for 2 areas of the curriculum so that involves further meetings which I then need to report back to the rest of the governors.

We are allowed to claim expenses for childcare costs and also travel expenses.

One hot topic at the moment is academisation, so we are currently looking at what the best route for our school to take is, as will many other Primary schools.

I really enjoy being a governor but it is certainly more involved than I was originally led to believe.

sunnydayinmay Wed 09-Mar-16 17:46:43

Timewise, it varies but I was told to allow 50 hours per year.

We have a full GB meeting every half term, and I chair a committee meeting every half term (so, 3-4 hours per half term in total). Bit of reading before hand.

I am school fairly regularly, but would do that anyway.

We have just had Ofsted in, which was quite full on, but basically I spent two hours getting papers in my head, a two hour meeting preparing, 45 mins with the Inspectors, and an hour at the reporting meeting.

Also, training - at least one session per year, usually more.

It is totally worth it, though, if you enjoy that sort of thing. I would go for it

DanFmDorking Fri 11-Mar-16 22:12:28

Being a Governor varies slightly from school to school. The main thing is ‘time and commitment’. You should think of the Governor meetings as meetings that you must attend and arrange your social/work life around them. You should attend the training sessions that your Local Authority provides.

School Governors are the biggest volunteer organisation in the UK. We estimate that it takes up about 35hrs per year although, of course, it depends on how involved you want to be. You can expect about 2 meeting per term (one on a committee and one for the Full Governing Body meeting) leading to about 6 meetings of about 2hrs each per year.

I repeat, it varies slightly from school to school and it depends on how involved you want to be.

Governors deal with Budgets, Policies, Targets and things which are 'a step away' from the 'day to day' running of the school.
Any question like 'My child doesn't ... isn't ... can't ...' is not for a Governors meeting.

School Governors do not run the school; they are there to take an overview and see that it delivers.

Sometimes one can get involved with sacking, redundancies and discipline matters.

Some useful sites: The Governance Handbook and UK Governors Forum and Governor Line and Being a School Governor and Governors for Schools.

I enjoy it and I've learnt a lot. I like being involved with the school and making a contribution - watching and learning how others deal with and solve problems. I have gained in self confidence and speaking up in meetings.

I’m sure you can Google ‘being a school governor’ yourself but:-

The Role of a School Governor

1 To Provide a Strategic View
2 To Act as a “Critical Friend”
3 To Ensure Accountability

In all types of schools, governing bodies should have a strong focus on three core strategic functions:
a. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
b. Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils; and
c. Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

Good Luck

ineedaholidaynow Sat 12-Mar-16 12:55:37

If there are any governor meetings happening before the governor election it might be an idea to attend to see one in action. They should be open to the public. If there is anything confidential being discussed you would need to step out for that bit.

bojorojo Sat 12-Mar-16 15:30:34

Governing body meetings are absolutely NOT open to the public! Why do you think that, ineedaholiday? A prospective governor can be invited to attend. Ask the Chairman of governors if you may attend. This is normal procedure in our school for all prospective governors. You may, as a parent, see the agenda, minutes and supporting papers that are not confidential. This will give you a good idea of the issues, the input from individual governors and the work of the committees. Normally a governor is not on every committee and most governing bodies meet once a term.

We prefer to provide "challenge" to the SLT of the school and the words " critical" and "friend" have been replaced now that governing bodies have recruited governors with the necessary skills to perform their role on the GB. We see ourselves as supportive of the school and SLT but "friends" is too cosy. You are performance managing the Head Teacher so being a friend is not what is required. A professional and supportive relationship is required.

Should a teacher be placed on the capability procedure, governors will not be involved. It is the Head's decision. As is the recommendation for terminating the contract of that teacher should it come to that. However if a member of staff is guilty of gross misconduct there are governors' committees that deal with such situations. All of this is rare though. You are not hiring and firing all the time!

DanFmDorking Sat 12-Mar-16 18:46:13

Governing body meetings are absolutely NOT open to the public!
They may be, it depends on the Governing Body.
Most are private though.

Pigeonpost Sat 12-Mar-16 20:08:13

Thanks, I had read a lot of that info online, it was real life experiences I was after so thank you for all of those. I have submitted my application now as it has to be in Monday noon so no chance to attend a meeting but I have had a chat with both an ex governor and a current one and that has all been positive. Thank you all. I will report back if I get in!

NynaevesSister Sun 13-Mar-16 07:13:27

Definitely go for it! I have been a parent governor for four years. You are not there to represent parents. You are there as a governor whose specialist ability that you are bringing to the table is that you are a parent.

So don't feel that you need to become an expert on finance, education etc.

I would recommend going on as many courses as you are able. And read the Primary section of Mumsnet regularly. I have found it really helpful.

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