Why have School Governors and what do they do?

Why do we have Governors?

The education of our children is a crucial public service, and it is right that the way such a service is provided takes full account of the public's wishes. Mostly this happens through the normal democratic processes of central and local government, but schools are so much a part of their community that a more local layer of control and accountability is called for, and that is the purpose of the governing body.

A very important point is that the key strategic decisions about what is done are taken by lay people acting on the public's behalf. How it is done is the province of the school's expert professional staff, who advise on those decisions and carry them out. 

Governors represent and are the legitimate voice of the community served by the school, especially the families who use it but also the wider public who pay for it. The head teacher is accountable to the governors, and the governors are in turn accountable to the public and the government. They are regarded by Ofsted as part of the school leadership, and their performance is inspected as such. 

What do governors do?

The governing body has three core functions, set out in the law. They are:

  •          making sure that the vision, ethos, and strategic values of the school are clear
  •          holding the head teacher to account for the school's educational performance
  •          overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

At a more detailed level the governors work with the Woodside leadership to make plans for the school's future, and put policies and procedures in place to make sure that what is in those plans actually happens. Among other things they set budgets, ensure that a broad and balanced curriculum is taught, appoint the headteacher and deputy head teacher, agree a staffing structure, and monitor the management of the premises.

Two especially important responsibilities are:

  • to make sure that the children are safe and that their health and welfare are protected
  • to monitor the school's educational performance, in terms of both academic achievement and equipping the children broadly to lead fulfilling lives, and to constantly seek high and improving standards.

In order to carry out these tasks governors have to learn a lot about Woodside and be able to understand the numerical and other information they are given. They use that knowledge in dialogue with the head teacher and staff, supporting and challenging them, but strictly not interfering with the day-to-day management of the school. This way of working means that it is vital to build and maintain an open and trusting relationship between governors and the head teacher and staff.