Shropshire Council

Volunteer as a governor

Join the largest group of committed volunteers in the country, and at the same time play a valuable role in the local community, helping to shape the future of our youngsters.

Governors have an important role in the leadership of schools and academies, ensuring that pupils receive the best possible education and care.

Why volunteer?

Being a governor means being interested in working to provide the best education for pupils. Governors are involved in a range of matters, which include recruitment, finance and curriculum. They also provide a strong link between the school and the local community, and an independent view to enable and support long term development and improvement.

Governing boards meet on at least a termly basis, and governors are expected to get to know their schools through planned visits. Governors are members of committees which have specific tasks to undertake on behalf of the governing board, and they meet at least termly. There are a range of training opportunities available to help governors undertake their duties and develop their understanding of the key areas of their responsibilities.

What do governors do?

Governing boards have a strong focus on three core strategic functions:

  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and direction
  • Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the performance management of the staff; and
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent

Each individual governor is a member of a governing board, and all decisions are the joint responsibility of that board.

As a governor you'll attend meetings and be prepared to ask questions after having read the associated paperwork. You'll be expected to attend training, and will probably also have a special responsibility assigned to you: development and training, safeguarding or health and safety, for example.

No one governor is expected to know it all. The strength of a governing board lies in its ability to attract and rely upon members from a wide variety of backgrounds, share out the duties amongst its members, and be able to take decisions as a group.

Special education needs (SEN) and the governing board

There should be a member of the governing board or a sub-committee with specific oversight of the school’s arrangements for SEN and disability. School leaders should regularly review how expertise and resources used to address SEN can be used to build the quality of 'whole school provision' as part of their approach to school improvement.

The governing boards of maintained schools and maintained nursery schools, and the proprietors of academy schools, must publish information on their websites about the implementation of the governing boards or the proprietor’s policy for pupils with SEN. The information published should be updated annually, and any changes to the information occurring during the year should be updated as soon as possible.

How much time is involved?

We suggest about 20-30 hours per term, often in the evenings. Governing boards have the freedom to organise their own structure, but you may be involved in:

  • Prior reading of paperwork and the preparation of questions before meetings
  • Attendance at whole governing board and committee meetings
  • Visits in to school to monitor provision
  • Special projects
  • Staff recruitment
  • Reviewing policies and the school’s budget

What skills do you need to become a governor?

  • A commitment to and interest in our children’s future and improving educational outcomes
  • Inquisitiveness to read paperwork, analyse and question
  • The ability to assimilate information, make judgements and take decisions
  • Good interpersonal skills and the ability to work as a team
  • Time
  • Although not essential, governing boards may be looking for experience of areas such as education, finance, personnel, business, etc

Is there any support?

Your governing board will have an induction process for new governors. There is also plenty of training available locally covering all aspects of governance.

What will you get out of being a governor?

Being a school governor can be a very rewarding role.  Here are some benefits that others have found:

  • The knowledge that you're helping schools and pupils
  • The satisfaction of giving something back to the community
  • A sense of purpose and achievement
  • New skills, and the development of existing ones, which may be transferable elsewhere, particularly your negotiation, questioning, conflict resolution, time management and financial skills
  • Broader horizons
  • New friends and workmates
  • Training and support in order to help you fulfil your duties and responsibilities
  • The opportunity to work as part of a team, sometimes with a range of people from different cultural, social and religious backgrounds

Many employers encourage staff to become school governors.  They realise that the skills gained from being a governor are translated to the workplace.  Please discuss with your employer what support they can offer you.

Types of governors

Co-opted governors

Co-opted governors are appointed by the governing board. They're people who in the opinion of the governing board have the skills required to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school.

The number of co-opted governors eligible to be elected or appointed as staff governors must not, when counted with the one staff governor and the headteacher, exceed a third of the total membership of the governing board.

Parent governors

Parent governors are elected by other parents at the school. Any parent, or carer, of a registered pupil at the school at the time of election is eligible to stand for election as a parent governor. Even if their child leaves the school, parent governors may continue to hold office until the end of their term of office.

Schools must make every reasonable effort to fill parent governor vacancies through elections. However, the regulations make provision for the governing board to appoint parent governors where not enough parents stand for election. Governing boards may only appoint as a parent governor a parent who has, in their opinion, the skills to contribute to effective governance and the success of the school.

A person is disqualified from being a parent governor if they're an elected member of the local authority or paid to work at the school for more than 500 hours.

Local authority governors

Local authority governors are nominated by the local authority but appointed by the governing board. The local authority can nominate any eligible person as a local authority governor, but it's for the governing board to decide whether their nominee has the skills to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school, and meets any other eligibility criteria they've set. Local authorities should therefore make every effort to understand the governing boards' requirements and identify and nominate suitable candidates.

An individual eligible to be a staff governor at the school may not be appointed as a local authority governor.

Foundation governors

Foundation governors (at voluntary aided, voluntary controlled and some foundation and foundation special schools only) are usually appointed by the school's founding board, church or other organisation named in the school's instrument of government. Some are governors as a result of being the local priest. These are ex-officio governorships which must be specified on the instrument.

All foundation governors are appointed to secure compliance with the trust deed and preserve and develop the religious character of the school, if it has a religious character.

The headteacher

The Headteacher is a member of the governing board by virtue of their office. The Headteacher may at any time resign as a governor, and withdraw their resignation, in both cases by notifying the clerk in writing.

Staff governors

Teaching and support staff who, at the time of election, are employed by either the governing board or the local authority to work at the school under a contract of employment, are eligible to be staff governors. Staff governors are elected by the school staff. They cease to hold office when they cease to work at the school.

It's important that prospective staff governors understand the nature of the role of a governor – and specifically that their role will not be to represent staff, nor to stand alongside the headteacher in being held to account by the governing board, but to operate as part of the governing board to provide strategic leadership and to hold the headteacher to account.

As with elected parent governors, staff governors can't be removed from office. Clear expectations of role and conduct should therefore be communicated and agreed upfront. If no candidates are forthcoming, the position on the governing board remains vacant and an election should be held as soon as an eligible candidate is identified.

Partnership governors

Partnership governors will exist only at foundation and foundation special schools which don't have a foundation of trustees. These are former county grant-maintained and grant-maintained special schools. Partnership governors must be members of the community served by the school who are committed to the good government and success of the school. The governing board is responsible for seeking nominations for and appointing partnership governors. Parents of pupils currently at the school, people employed to work at the school, or elected members or local authority employees connected with education can't be appointed as partnership governors.

Associate members

Associate members are appointed by the governing board to serve on one or more governing board committees. They may also attend full governing board meetings. They aren't governors and therefore don't have a vote in governing board decisions, but may be given a vote on decisions made by committees to which they're appointed.

Associate members should be appointed because of the specific expertise and experience they can contribute to the effective governance and success of the school. The definition of an associate member is wide. Subject to the disqualifications set out in the regulations, the governing board may appoint a pupil, school staff member, or any other person as an associate member so that they can contribute their specific expertise. This can help to address specific gaps identified in the skills of governing board members, and/or help the governing board respond to particular challenges they may be facing.

Disqualification rules

There are certain rules which disqualify an individual from becoming a governor. Should you be nominated to serve as a governor you'll be asked to certify that you're not disqualified under these rules.

Time off work with pay

Many companies encourage employees to become governors and allow time off with pay, although this isn't a legal requirement. In any event, school governors are covered by the provisions of the Employee Protection Act which grants employees reasonable unpaid time off for public duties. Governors employed by Shropshire Council may be afforded time off with pay for undertaking important governance activities, eg appointing staff, SEND and school improvement monitoring, Ofsted inspection etc. Details are noted in our special leave policy as follows:

"Approved paid special leave of up to 18 days in any leave year may be granted (including school based staff) to you in order to undertake public duties and any necessary training. These can be expressed in terms of hours (pro rata) where duties are likely to be over shorter periods than a full day. Duties include:

  • As a JP, school or college governor

Duties over the 18 days may be allowed at the discretion of your director and will be on an unpaid basis."

What should you do next?

If you're interested in becoming a co-opted or authority governor, please complete the online application form.  If you're a member of staff or parent, please contact your school directly.