Parents often criticise the way their children's schools are being run. They may take exception to the lack of after-hours provision or extracurricular activities. Many feel that some unknown group of people is responsible for making these important decisions.
The truth of the matter is that parents can influence the decision-making process themselves by choosing to become school governors. In most schools the governing body works alongside the head to establish the school's aims, values and ethos. They are also accountable for deciding its policies, approving the budget, overseeing management and observing performance.
Many parents wrongly assume that you need to be a 'professional' person (doctor, lawyer, or teacher), or have a university degree to be a school governor. Although having these abilities and qualifications may be useful, they are not an essential requirement. In fact, you don’t even have to be a parent to be a governor. What you must possess, however, is a desire to make a difference plus time, energy and commitment, a readiness to accept responsibility, the ability to work as part of a team and, most importantly, an interest in the future of the borough's children.
Types of governors
There are currently four types of governors:
- Parent governors
- Staff or teacher governors
- Local Authority (LA) appointed governors
- Community governors
Under current regulations to be a parent governor you must to have 'parental responsibility' for a pupil at the school. Parental responsibility covers step-parents, foster parents, grandparents and the permanent partner of a biological parent, as well as the biological parent. Also, your child needs to be on the school roll at the time the election is held - although you will not be asked to resign if your child leaves the school before the end of your stint.
Although being a governor is open to almost anyone, restrictions are placed upon those who have committed certain offences or have been declared bankrupt.
The role of school governors
Once appointed as a school governor, you are provided with training in your role, and the responsibilities and work of governing bodies. Training also includes once-a-term briefing meetings where governors are informed about the latest developments within the sector.
Governors usually meet at least once a term, more often than not in the evenings, to discuss school-related issues such as planning, finance, staffing, discipline and curriculum. However, if they have a lot of work to deal with they may meet twice a term. School governors are also encouraged to visit their school during school hours (with prior agreement from the school head) so that they can get a better feel for the school.
The initial term of office is four years, but governors can stay on for further terms if re-appointed. Governors aren't paid but in some cases they might be able to claim some expenses.