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Being a primary school governor

(6 Posts)
Fortybingowings Wed 14-Dec-16 21:50:39

Our primary school has a parent governor vacancy and I'd like to know more about what's involved before putting myself forward.
It's a good school but the head left in July last year. I've heard rumours that the plan may be to 'federate' with a neighbouring school where the current head is also the 'executive head' covering ours.
I feel I have a lot of skills to contribute as a governor but I realistically have little idea of the time commitment and what I'll likely be doing.
Would you be kind enough to share your experiences and thoughts?

DanFmDorking Wed 14-Dec-16 23:16:50

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.

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.

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

Good Luck

bojorojo Thu 15-Dec-16 01:28:00

In many schools now there is a huge emphasis on understanding data that is produced regarding the progress of the children over time. It is not all about the final results of Sats. The quality of teaching is also a vital component so you need to trust the Head in terms of their monitoring of this. Governors must know the strengths and weaknesses of the school and ensure weaknesses are addressed.

If your school is considering federation, and this can be positive, you may be in for a bumpy ride if lots of parents are not happy. It can be a really good solution where schools find getting a suitable Head difficult. It can also keep two smaller schools going and reduce costs. Sometimes one becomes an infant and the other a junior school, for example, which helps with sport and music for the older children and is more efficient to run. However, sometimes parents will cling on to wanting a headteacher full time in their school. They may not want their children to travel to another school if this is suggested.

You do need to be aware that parent governors are not delegates. You do not have to seek out the views of the parent body on anything. If federation is proposed, the governing body should do that as part of the consultation process.

Being a governor is a worthwhile position but the number of committees and length of meetings vary from school to school. You will be expected to train and also get to know your school with planned and focussed visits. You may take on a specific role such as monitoring a section of the development plan or a specific governor role, eg safeguarding governor, maths governor etc. These involve visits to school and report writing afterwards. If the federation proposal goes ahead, this will involve extra meetings too. You should expect a detailed report from the Head at each meeting so taking time to read it and ask questions about aspects of it is also time consuming, but vital.

The phrase critical friend is a bit out of date. Governors are there to provide strategic direction and challenge the Head and hold the Head accountable. It is not necessary to be a friend, but the Governor should have a professional relationship with the staff of the school and not be a cheerleader. Hope this helps - go for it!

GnomeDePlume Fri 30-Dec-16 08:21:33

I found being a governor utterly frustrating and that ultimately we were a 'rubber stamp' mechanism for allowing the Head to do what he liked. This included failing to mention that the person who was promoted to Deputy Head was someone with whom he was having an affair and whom he left his wife for shortly after the appointment was confirmed.

The school was happy to take as much time and effort as could be extracted from individual governors. It was always the same governors who would be pressured to give more time.

We didnt even get a cup of tea/coffee at the governor meetings!

Wigeon Fri 30-Dec-16 08:35:19

I think it can be a really valuable and worthwhile thing to do. I was a governor for three years - the training the county provided was really good, I understand the role of critical friend / strategic lead (in partnership with the school senior leadership team), it's perfectly possible not to mention your own DC or to become a route for other parents to use to whinge, and I think schools which work in partnership with the governing body can be really strong.

HOWEVER, I found that my school's head and deputy were defensive, not interested in working with the govnerors, provided inadequate information to enable us to do our job (e.g. unclear data, no comparative data, no good explanations of strengths and areas for improvement in the data), and generally saw the governors as something to be tolerated / resisted rather than as part of the same team. Various things happened which I felt were indicative of a poorly run organisation. So I ended up resigning.

Like GnomedePlume, we also didn't even get a cup of tea (or even an offer of water!), and when I saw the deputy HT making himself a cup of tea as we were arriving once, and suggested governors might like a cup when they arrived, he said "well, you can be sure that won't be coming out of the school's budget!" and didn't make anyone tea!

I suggest you try to meet with the governing body Chair to talk about what it's like at your school, the time commitment, expectations of governors, sub-committees etc, and I think you will get a very good idea of the nature of this particular GB. A good chair should be delighted to meet a prospective new governor.

admission Fri 30-Dec-16 16:26:44

As a governor I would completely recommend being a governor if you believe that you have the time to do the job properly.
However I think that from your comments that you do need to check things out a bit more about the school. The fact that you are asking on here about being a parent governor suggests that the school have given you little or no advice, which is not good practice. When we had a vacancy for a parent governor in September all the prospective parents were given very clear and specific information about what was required of the job and info about the school.
This omission in your case is compounded by your comments about not having a permanent head teacher and possibly an executive head teacher coming in, based in another school. Well the governing board make such decisions and the fact that the rumours are flying over it but they have said nothing maybe says something about the school and the governing board as a whole. It sounds as though they are not up to speed properly. If the two schools do federate under one executive head teacher then there will only be one governing board across the two schools, so why are they considering appointing a new PG at this time?
I think you need to ask some more questions before agreeing to get involved or look for a governing board that might want your expertise and seems more on the ball than this lot, from what you have said.

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