Different Types of Governors Explained
The Special Role of Foundation Governors
Although all of the governors have the responsibility to promote and maintain the school’s Catholic character and mission, the foundation governors have special responsibility in this area. The Catholic Education Service document ‘Governing a Catholic School’ (1998) gives this summary of their role.
‘Foundation governors are appointed by the Bishop specifically to ensure:
- that the religious character of the school is preserved;
- that the school is conducted in accordance with its trust deed (ie the diocesan trust deed);
- that the religious education curriculum is in accordance with the bishop’s policy for his diocese, based on the Bishops’ Conference Curriculum Directory.’
‘It is important for them to:
- know and implement the bishop’s policies on education including religious education;
- understand and promote the distinctive nature of Catholic education;
- secure the long term future of Catholic education.’
Foundation governors have additional legal duties. They are:
- in employing teachers, ‘whenever possible, they should appoint Catholic teachers in order to promote and maintain the Catholic ethos of the school.’ They must appoint practising Catholics to the posts of headteacher, deputy headteacher and coordinator or head of religious education.
- admitting children ‘first and foremost on religious grounds’, by giving priority for admission to baptised Catholic children;
- ensuring that the whole curriculum, including religious education, ‘is taught in the light of gospel values and actively promotes the spiritual and moral development of the pupils’.
For these reasons there is always a majority of Foundation Governors on the Governing Body of every Catholic school.
The Role of the Parent Governor
Parents of pupils on the school roll elect parent governors who must be parents of a child on the school roll at the time of their election. Parent governors do not have to stand down if their child leaves the school during the period they serve; they may serve out their term of office. Although elected by parents, parent governors are not obliged to express any views apart from their own. However, it is important they try to represent the views of parents on major issues to the governing body, where appropriate. A parent governor is therefore a representative, but not a delegate.
Parents sometimes approach parent governors with complaints about the school. These should be referred directly to the headteacher or the most appropriate member of staff without the parent governor becoming involved, unless to help make the appointment with the headteacher.
The Governing Body has a clear policy and procedure for dealing with concerns and complaints and this is available on the school website.
The Role of the Staff Governor
Staff governors are elected by the staff at the school to serve for 4 years. If a staff governor leaves a school they stop being a governor. Anybody who is employed to work at the school under a contract of employment or contract of services, full or part-time, is entitled to stand for election as a staff governor. The Instrument of Government for the school states that there is one staff governor on our governing body.
Although elected, staff governors are not obliged to express any views apart from their own. However, they should report in good faith any widely held staff views, even if, in a vote, they decide to vote differently. Staff governors play a central role in helping the Full Governing Body understand the workings of the school. Their expertise can be utilised to: help draft school policies interpret and present data develop strategies to improve parental and wider community engagement help all governors understand the curriculum and how governing body decisions make a difference to the school
The headteacher is also a Governor by nature of her position.
The Role of the Local Authority Governor
The Local Authority in Hertfordshire nominates local authority governors to be appointed by governing bodies, subject to meeting any eligibility criteria set by the governing bodies. A local authority governor is a representative of the Local Authority. They are not a delegate of the Local Authority and, as such, cannot be mandated to take any particular course of action or vote in a specific way at meetings. Whilst they represent the Local Authority they are not chosen to represent any one political view. They are expected to behave, however, in an appropriate manner and not in any way that might bring the reputation of the Local Authority into disrepute. They must act in the best interests of the school and wider community and cannot be mandated to take a particular stance on issues. Awareness and understanding of Local Authority priorities and policies, however, will enable the Local Authority Governor to inform the debate and priorities at school level.
Regardless of the type of appointment, all governors share responsibility for the strategic development of the school; it is a collective responsibility and the governing body acts as a unified body in the decisions which it makes. All governors have equal status regardless of the reason for their appointment.
Minutes of governors’ meetings are shared with parents on the school website unless the matter is confidential; such minutes, it should be noted, are not who said what. If, however, the matter is confidential it cannot be shared with anyone else outside of the governing body by any governor. If the matter is sensitive, the governing body should discuss and agree how the information will be communicated. The governing body as a whole has a responsibility for communication with parents.
Any Governor should declare an interest and withdraw from any meeting where they, a partner or close relative or associate stands to gain, or where they are so close to a matter discussed it is difficult to be impartial.
Governors elect a Chairman to serve the governing body at their first Full Governing Body Meeting of the year; at Pope Paul it is agreed that their appointment is for one year, though individuals may be, and often are, re-elected the following year.
Governor Committees likewise elect a Chairman at their first meeting of the year and review their Terms of Reference before seeking approval for these at the following Full Governing Body Meeting. These Terms of Reference are available elsewhere on this website.
The conduct of governors is determined by the Governing Body Code of Conduct.