The demands of the governor role

Reflection – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
I don’t think most governors are aware of the full range of their responsibilities and if I’m honest I don’t think they fulfil many of those responsibilities.

From my perspective as Chair, (and most Chairs are there not because they are hugely enthusiastic to do the job but because they are the ones who didn’t say ‘No’ when asked), it is quite alarming how much we are expected to know and do and we only get away with not knowing or not doing them, because no-one checks and if events don’t expose any shortfalls.

What happened?
We are undertaking a self-evaluation exercise based on a framework devised by Governors Wales and it keeps revealing things we should be doing or have done or should do in the future, which we aren’t doing or aren’t doing as well as we should.

What lessons were learnt?
I’d like to see examples of how all the work of governance can be managed in a structured properly monitored way: maybe some kind of program which contains all the responsibilities and flags up when they need to be addressed.

Yes, the role of a governor is demanding and challenging but it is also rewarding too. However hard it can be at times, please never forget that! There is no doubt the mandatory governor training is a step in the right direction to inform governors about the role, but ongoing training is essential to keep up to date and develop knowledge and expertise for the core governor responsibilities.

Distributed leadership within a governing body is essential. Governing bodies cannot do everything so looking at the skill set of governors and deploying accordingly is often the best way forward. Sharing workload and working to the strengths of governors is hugely beneficial – it promotes ownership and effective partnership working. So, if you haven’t already completed a governing body skills audit, why not have a look.

Some thoughts to reflect on:

  • Has the governing body reviewed its committee structure – is this effective, how can it be improve?
  • Does your governing body have link governors – how effective are they, should the governing body look to do things differently? – Has your governing body set up working groups to complete an area of work?
  • Does your governing body bring in non-governors with particular expertise to assist the governing body?

The governing body self-review exercise is an excellent way of looking at the work of the governing body to see they have everything in place.

The self-evaluation template may seem overwhelming at first glance but you can approach it in small steps initially, to just get an overview of where you are as a governing body. We all want to improve what we do, so allowing some time for reflection is a great way to start and can be therapeutic!

The role of the Chair is not an easy one. Governors Cymru Services has a guide to assist Chairs with their work.

If you are a new chair, it may be useful to have a mentor chair or join up from time to time, with Chairs of governors in your school cluster group or Governor Improvement Group.

There are distinct areas of work that the governing body needs to complete on a yearly basis. Does your governing body have a schedule of work that can be adapted to your own school’s need?

You might want to look at Part 2 of the governor handbook that provides information on delegation of responsibilities and a schedule of work planner. Governors Cymru Services has some lovely examples of how governing bodies work which might be of assistance.

Estyn also has examples of effective governor practice:
Supporting governors to fulfil their role more effectively

What advice and guidance would you give to fellow governors about managing the workload?
Do tensions arise in your governing body caused by the demands of the role? What could you do to address these?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

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