Carving up the responsibility cake for members of the Governing Body

17 Apr

As Ofsted raises the stakes on governors causing them to take a deeper interest in discharging the main function of schools, i.e. providing a stimulating curriculum that lifts standards, there is a danger that they could fall foul of their most senior managers, i.e. the headteachers, for meddling in matters in which they should have no business. It must be said at this point that the overwhelming majority of governors and managers in the country’s schools have a splendid working relationship and wish to keep it that way.

Governors also recognise that they carry out their functions in a voluntary capacity.  Most have day jobs that bring home the bacon and keep them out of mischief.   Not only don’t they wish to meddle with management issues but they simply don’t have the time to do so.

Occasionally, however, we do come across “rogue” governors who are keen to embark on ego trips and cause their headteachers’ grief.

Generally, at the first meeting of an academic year, the governing body reviews the terms of reference of its committees, appoints members to them and delegates responsibilities to individual members – nominating governors to oversee discrete areas of school life such as Special Needs, Equal Opportunities and Health and Safety.

The Department for Education published in 2012 a very helpful decision planner for governors, from which every governing body can derive considerable benefit.   The planner is set out at four levels: responsibilities that the full governing body may assume, duties that can be delegated to committees, tasks to be carried out by individual governors and aspects of school life for which the headteacher takes charge.

There are very few duties that the governing body cannot delegate to a committee, another member or the headteacher.  However, the governing body only is permitted to do the following.

(1)        Appoint the headteacher and deputy headteacher.

(2)        Agree a health and safety policy in an academy, free school, foundation school and voluntary aided school.  (The local authority has responsibility for this area in community and voluntary controlled schools.)

(3)        Draw up the draft instrument of government and any amendments thereafter which the local authority promulgates.

(4)        Appoint and/or remove the chair and vice chair of a permanent or temporary governing body.

(5)        Appoint and/or dismiss the clerk to the governing body.

(6)        Hold meetings of the full governing body at least three times in a school year or convene meetings of the temporary governing body as often as necessary.

(7)        Appoint and remove community and/or sponsor governors.

(8)        Set up a Register of Governors’ Business Interests.

(9)        Consider whether or not to exercise delegation of functions to individuals or committees.

(10)      Regulate the procedures of the governing body, where they – i.e. the procedures – are not established in law.

(11)      Consider forming a federation or joining an existing federation.

(13)      Consider requests from other schools to join the federation.

(14)      Leave a federation.

(15)      Decide to offer additional activities and define what form these should take.

Auditors will find this hard to believe but the governing body can even delegate the construction of the budget to a finance committee albeit this may not be delegated to any one person.

Delegation is not synonymous with abdication.  Consequently, even though the governing body may delegate functions it has to take overall ownership of the action of the person or committee to whom/which it has delegated a task.   Consequently, the governing body benefits from receiving periodic feedback on what is being accomplished by those members and the committees to whom/which functions are delegated.

The DfE’s Decision Planner is can be downloaded here.

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