Discerning the right boundaries for relationships between governors & members of the community

Reflection – Secondary School

What was the issue addressed?
Confidences shared by pupils, staff and parents. What expectations should there be in relation to the nature of relationships between governors and staff; governors and pupils; governors and family members, governors and the wider community.

What happened?
I have spoken to certain governors who felt I might be able to offer guidance based on my professional experiences and life experiences. On occasions this has been helpful.

What lessons were learnt?
In my opinion Governors rarely come together to discuss issues arising from their role. Certainly very few opportunities to put forward ideas and share learning. Our main sources of contact are via governors meetings or documentation forwarded via a Dropbox. More opportunities for issues to be discussed in confidence would be desirable.

This case study highlights some important issues that governors need to be aware of when undertaking their governor role. The governing body has three key roles in essence, strategic leadership, accountability, and being a critical friend. Day to day operational issues are down to the headteacher and staff at the school.

Part I of the Handbook for School Governors in Wales sets out the respective roles of the headteacher and the governing body. It is important that everyone is familiar with the distinct roles so as not to overlap.

It is good practice for every governing body to sign up to the principles of conduct for governors so everyone knows right from the outset the parameters they need to follow. Many governing bodies have their own code to follow adapted either from Local Authority information or Governors Cymru Services. If your governing body doesn’t have one in place, it is certainly worth considering.

The issue of confidentiality is one that is often raised. Again, it is important that governors are aware of what is deemed to be confidential at each governing body meeting, as well as, at any committee meetings. The Chair should be clear before the start of a particular agenda item if it is deemed confidential. The clerk will then minute this item separately, usually as Part II of the minutes. It is unclear however from the case study, what is meant by ‘issues to be discussed in confidence.’

Usually, information about staff and pupils will be confidential, plus any other matter the governing body feels should be kept confidential. Information on what may not be included in governing body minutes can be found here.

There is a useful section on confidentiality in Part 2 of the Handbook for School Governors in Wales.

Governors will attend meetings and discuss the business matters of the day, often there is not enough time to perhaps discuss and talk about ideas, suggestions and share effective practices. This can be invaluable and can clear up any myths about governance too.

The importance of governors reviewing and discussing policies and procedures cannot be over emphasised. This way, governors become familiar with, and get to understand the processes that should be followed. If, for example, a complaint is raised by a parent or a staff grievance, and a governor has been approached to sort things directly, they will know what are the correct steps to follow and will not therefore, compromise their position as a governor. Governors Cymru Services has produced some top tips for governors to assist with their work.

Have you had concerns about any of the relationships between governors and other members of the school community?
What policies and procedures does your school have in place relating to confidentiality issues?

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

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