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to think School Board of Governors are not fit for purpose?

(28 Posts)
dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 11:24:07

I had a serious complaint about the Head of my school which went through the School's Complaints process ending in a Board of Governors panel hearing. Whilst I have no doubt most Governors are well intentioned, community spirited people, the process did make me question it they are qualified to be the only and final port of call a parent can go to with a complaint for the following reasons:-

1. Experience. They do not necessarily have any experience in education whatsoever or the complex matters involved.

2. Impartiality. In the case of my school the BoG's were responsible for appointing the Head - who likes to admit they may have made a mistake?

3. Objectivity. Many Governors are parents themselves which has both pros and cons. At the school in question, the Chair alone has five children and many years to go at the school. On one hand this is good as they have a vested interest in the success of the school, but on the otherhand it would be a brave parent to take on a Head who has power over their childrens' education and well-being.

4. Unbiased. The Board have to work closely with the Head, a person in a position of power, it is human nature to side with a known entity who you have an on-going relationship with.

5. Involved. In my case the Governors were implicated to a small degree, so to an extent they were handling their own complaint.

Basically I find it frightening that a bunch of volunteers can make judgments affecting childrens' education and their say is final - I was shocked to find there is no independent, impartial body you can take a school compliant to.

I'd love to hear any other experiences with BoG's - good or bad!

HollyBayTree Thu 22-Mar-18 11:33:12

The governors are there purely to support the Head. In every school Ive ever worked in, and they are mainly academy converters, in every case, the new HT got rid of all the existing governors and brough in his/her own people to do her dirty work bidding. It wasnt because hte existing gvernors were incompetant, it was because they challenged the new regime.

Academies are really very corrupt, especially the large chains.

Ohforfoxsakereturns Thu 22-Mar-18 11:38:04

What external support do they use? Governor services or external advisor?

Luckingfovely Thu 22-Mar-18 11:41:27

I completely agree, and have had exactly the same experience at our school. It's almost not worth complaining. I'm not sure what the answer is, but the system doesn't seem to work as it is.

dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 11:42:34


I don't know, they never shared that information with me!

dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 11:47:49

I think that is what concerns me Lucking, in my case they did not even address most of my complaint, swept over it completely, and I think they did that knowing there was no where else I could go.

blueskypink Thu 22-Mar-18 11:47:49

I agree op. I've been a governor for many years in 3 schools and the vast majority of governors I've encountered are pretty useless. They talk too much in meetings about their pet topics, don't read papers properly so don't understand the issues, make unnecessary demands on the HT and SLTs, don't understand where their remit starts and ends etc etc. I think most schools would function perfectly well - if not better - without them!

kitkatsky Thu 22-Mar-18 11:48:01

I’m a governor. It’s a really responsible job with the obligation to do lots of training and improvement, so not just community minded volunteers. In my first year in the role I’ve done training courses on redundancy, grievance management, financial management and interviewing for SLT roles. I know my colleagues on the board have done as many courses as I have. It’s v difficult to comment on specific cases of effectiveness without the details- happy to advise if you want to PM me- but I think a lot of parents don’t understand how much of a difference governors actually make to the running of the school. One final point- I have zero issue challenging the head as a parent governor. She’s an educator and won’t hold grudges on my daughter for not agreeing with her any more than she’d hold a complaint against her from a parent against their child

AuntyElle Thu 22-Mar-18 11:55:00

From my experience I would agree. The governors were totally isolated from school life. The only information they had was that the head chose to feed to them. Literally never seen in the school apart from BoG meetings. Lots of apologies for absence from meetings too.
When Chair was repeatedly presented with seriously alarming reports by various members of staff she sat on them and did nothing.
They didn’t seem to have any understanding of the reality of school life, their responsibilities as governors or how narrow their understanding was.
Really concerning. And that was an LEA VA school.

dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 11:57:50

Thanks for your comments, I would add that I'm not bashing governors, I appreciate anyone who gives up their time to help a cause. I guess my problem is that where a resolution cannot be reached there should be a completely independent and impartial professional body a parent can go to.

Because whilst I am sure there are many competent G's and receptive HT's I suspect there are also many that aren't!

CarrotVan Thu 22-Mar-18 12:25:55

School Governance has changed massively over the last decade. It now requires a high level of skill in planning, legal, financial and employment matters as well as risk management, health and safety, IT, safeguarding...

It does not require much knowledge of education, pedagogy, assessment practices etc. A bonus if you have someone with that knowledge but not essential.

Any competent BoG should have a regularly updated skills map of their governors, a training and development plan,and a succession plan. The role of the BoG is to ensure that the school is run properly by the people who are paid to run it. The BoG should not get involved in operational management.

In terms of complaints handling the complaint should be handled by a designated investigating team and dealt with by a specially convened panel. An appeal should be heard by governors not involved in any prior stage of the complaint handling. If that can't be done then professional support should be sought from Governor Services (either LA or whoever is contracted) or Governors from another school (if part of a chain or cluster for example).

There is also the opportunity to take a complaint to the Department of Education or Ofsted (depending on what it is) if you disagree with the outcome from the appeal or feel it's not been handled properly.

It's a shit job being a governor and I'm glad I stepped away. It's very hard work if done properly and there's no recompense at all.

And I have performance managed head teachers, dealt with academisation, redeveloped the school premises, overseen a significant recompense at all

BumpowderSneezeonAndSnot Thu 22-Mar-18 12:27:37

My husband is chair of governors at a local primary and has no educational background. His background is financial and employment management matters which from what I understand are very much more in demand than an educational background

TheHungryDonkey Thu 22-Mar-18 12:28:48

I quit a school governing body once. The head constantly told them how wonderful the school was. There was zero bullying. Not one case. The dickheads believed him and never challenged him on anything. I couldn’t listen to the lies anymore.

It was pointless for any parent complaining about the head to them. He could do no wrong. They did nothing. It was criminal. They probably wondered why so many parents removed their children that they didn’t have enough to make up the classes a year later.

Then there was also a beautiful moment a year or so ago when the most god awful head imaginable was turfed out of a school that had past failed and the entire governing body sacked. It was so deserved. All the poor children they had failed.

I can’t understand why some governing bodies allow heads to go completely unchallenged.

PussyTrumpHat Thu 22-Mar-18 12:32:23

I had exactly the same
Lying head and spineless governors. 2 of the govenors had buisness which got contracts from the school. Conflict of interest seemed to not be considered
A friend got a governor position but was quickly pushed out. He was too much of an independent thinker

ZigZagIntoTheBlue Thu 22-Mar-18 12:35:31

I'm a clerk and recently clerked a complaint panel against a head. The governors were really good actually and found in partial favour of the parent - they were as unbiased as possible and actually as parents at the school themselves they knew that some of the claims the parent was making were true!

fleshmarketclose Thu 22-Mar-18 12:39:52

I think for a board of Governors to be useful they have to be prepared to challenge the HT at times and to do that they need to have the knowledge required.
Ds works as a clerk to the board of Governors as a second role to his primary role which is working for the LA in shared services.
His criticism is that the BofG have seemingly little knowledge and no backbone should the HT disagree with their decisions and so capitulate and as such are ineffective.
He is pretty sure that not all schools are the same but in that school,a large mainstream secondary school, they may as well not have a Governing body.

SweetSummerchild Thu 22-Mar-18 12:51:33

Having served a full term as a governor I agree with this:

School Governance has changed massively over the last decade. It now requires a high level of skill in planning, legal, financial and employment matters as well as risk management, health and safety, IT, safeguarding...

However, I do not agree with this:

It does not require much knowledge of education, pedagogy, assessment practices etc. A bonus if you have someone with that knowledge but not essential.

This may be true in some schools but not others - particularly those in RI or I Ofsted ratings with ‘weak’ leadership. Having been a governor in three Ofsted meetings (2 inspections and one HMI visit) I would not have survived very long without a very in depth knowledge of current education practice. I gained that knowledge through being a teacher in a different school, not through any training (which was crap in our LEA) I received as a governor.

dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 12:57:37


Thanks for your message - just to say that Ofsted or Dept of Ed only have the authority to make sure the school follows it's complaints procedure. They will not review the actual complaint or the outcome.

If your complaint is not resolved, there is literally nowhere you can go (unless is was a criminal matter I suppose).

That is my issue really because even the anecdotal examples on here suggest that this process for handling complaints cannot always be relied on and the education/well-being of children surely deserves and independent, professional, impartial body to step in when all else fails?

HollyBayTree Thu 22-Mar-18 13:01:08

The trouble with academies is that they are effectively a private business operating in the state sector. Whilst their remit isn’t to make profit, they cant make a loss either The HY (in my experience) just surrounds themselves with yes-men who don’t mind stripping the additional needs budget to put a new roof on etc. I’ve witnessed so much fraudulent activity – none of which would be challenged by governors. I put a very weighty tome on their doormat, and it was all swept away . Most of it was to do with abuse and safeguarding. And frankly, most schools do sweep it under the mat. None of them want the risk of a poor reputation.

There were 8 teachers, swiftly moved on, with references, for inappropriate conduct with children - not necessarily of a sexual nature. Thats how much carpet sweeping is done.

CarrotVan Thu 22-Mar-18 13:02:29

SweetSummer my background is in education too and whilst it was useful it wasn't essential (saw two schools back up from RI in my time) as schools improvement professionals would provide that.

dazedandconfused if the DoE find the complaint hasn't been handled properly (conflict of interest in the panel for example) then they should refer it back for reconsideration by a new panel.

I'm not saying some GBs aren't crap - they totally are. And the ones stuffed with people who used to have kids at the school but now don't and local councillors are usually the worst

TheHungryDonkey Thu 22-Mar-18 13:03:03

Dazed, I ended up moving my children to another school because the complaints system was pointless. So, I totally hear what you’re saying. There is no comeback at all, especially for Sen issues which Ofsted are not interested in.

It’s heartening to hear that some people have had positive experiences with governing bodies. It’s not my experience and not the experience of others at different schools in the same city.

dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 13:12:14

That's my point, some are crap, or ineffectual or inexperienced or weak or corrupt or biased. But the fact parents have nowhere else to take a complaint allows for some of the issues raised on this post to occur. They are accountable to no-one. Mix one bad Head with a complicit BoG's and the result is a lawless state! May have got a little dramatic there!

dazedandconfused18 Thu 22-Mar-18 13:19:43

I'm sorry to hear that Hungry, what an upheaval for you all. Luckily in my case my youngest DC moved on to secondary otherwise I may have been in your boat.

itstimeforanamechange Thu 22-Mar-18 13:21:07

You're talking about academies aren't you OP?

I assume with an LA school you can take your complaint to the LA if the school doesn't deal with it properly?

I was a local authority governor for 8 years (they are not all councillors, I was just appointed by the LA because I applied through them). I'm still not sure whether I made a sensible difference. The HT more or less did our job for us in training us up to challenge her properly! Eventually the school was graded outstanding in all areas including governance. I think it would be better to have a small board of trustees like charities do. It is a strange system.

I did sit on a complaints committee once in my early days as a governor. We found in the parent's favour and the HT was livid (this was the HT before the one who trained us up to do a good job challenging her). So I guess that means that we did do our job properly on that occasion!

PussyTrumpHat Thu 22-Mar-18 13:21:48

Academics are worse. There isn't even the LA to go to.
Others are not good because our useless Tory government gave HT more power without considering they may not all be truthful
Our HT actually referred to himself as king of his empire. He was right. He treated my SN child terribly but I got nowhere with my complaint
I know he has continued in the same way with other children/families

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