Changes to Governance Regulations

24 Apr

The Secretary of State consulted in the Spring Term 2014 on proposed changes to the structure and procedures of the governing body. The consultations, launched on 13 January 2014, closed on 14 March 2014.  Regulations were laid before Parliament and come into force on 1 September 2014.  Three primary changes will take effect.

(i)         The role of governors has, in recent times, become extremely complex and time-consuming.   The composition, based on a stakeholder model, is no more fit for purpose because schools now need governors who have the necessary skills, commitment and time to “hold the headteacher to account for its (the school’s) educational and financial performance”.

Consequently, one of the main regulations is that anyone appointed to the governing body “should … have the skills to contribute to effective governance and the success of the school”. Accordingly, the eligibility criteria of all categories of appointed governors will be brought into line with a skills-focused definition.  All foundation, partnership, local authority and (appointed) governors will be required to have skills required by the governing body. Only elected parent and staff governors will not be selected on skills-based criteria.

(ii)        The flexibility of the Constitution Regulations of 2012 enabled governing bodies to continue with their operating structure.  However, this will end in the next 15 months requiring all governing bodies of maintained schools to restructure by 1 September 2015. Academies and Free Schools will not be affected as their governance structures are prescribed by the Department for Education.

Governors’ Agenda – Issue 53 (Autumn 2012) – described the implications.  However, there is merit in apprising governors of this again.

The membership of the governing body of a maintained school must include the following:

(a)        at least two parent governors;

(b)        the headteacher unless she or he declines to be a governor;

(c)        one staff governor; and

(d)        one local authority governor.

The governing body may in addition appoint such number of co-opted governors as it considers necessary provided that the requirements in regulation 14 are met in respect of governing bodies of foundation and voluntary schools.

Regulation 14 is as follows.

(i)                 The governing body of a foundation school or a foundation special school, which, in either case does not have a foundation, must also include at least two (but no more than a quarter of the total) partnership governors.

(ii)               The governing body of a foundation school or a foundation special school which, in either case, has a foundation but which is not a qualifying foundation school, must also include at least two (but no more than 45% of the total) foundation governors.

(iii)             The governing body of a qualifying foundation school must also include such number of foundation governors as to outnumber all the other governors by up to two.

(iv)              The governing body of a voluntary aided school must also include such number of foundation governors as to outnumber all the other governors by two.

(v)                The governing body of a voluntary controlled school must also include at least two (but no more than a quarter of the total) foundation governors.

(vi)              When calculating the number of governors required in order to comply with this regulation, the number is to be rounded up or down to the nearest whole number.

Staff members may be co-opted onto the governing body.  However, the number of staff governors co-opted when added to the staff governors elected (including the headteacher – who is ex officio unless she or he chooses not to be a governor), must not exceed the number on the governing body by one-third.

The total number of governors must be no fewer than seven.   There is no upper limit.

The grounds for disqualification are three– general, where governors fail to act, and where they commit inappropriate actions.  All grounds for disqualification also apply to associate members.

(a)        Registered pupils can’t serve as governors as also anyone under the age of 18.  In addition, a person is not permitted to hold more than one governor post at the same school, though she/he may be a governor at more than one school.

(b)        A person is disqualified from being a parent governor if she/he is an elected member of the local authority or paid to work at the school for more than 500 hours annually.

(c)        A person cannot be a local authority governor if she/he is eligible to be a staff governor.

(d)        A person is disqualified from being a partnership governor if she/he is a parent of a registered pupil at the school, eligible to be a staff governor at the school, an elected member of the local authority or employed by the local authority in connection with its education functions.

(e)        A person is disqualified from being a governor of a particular school if she/he has failed to attend meetings of the governing body for a continuous period of six months, beginning with the date of the first meeting that the governor has failed to attend, without the consent of the governing body.  This, of course, does not apply to the headteacher or to foundation governors appointed by virtue of their office.

(f)        In addition, there are several other grounds for disqualification which have to do with bankruptcy, estate sequestration, prison sentences and child abuse.

The governing body may also remove governors behaving badly but there is a detailed procedure for doing so to give the governor in the dock a “fair trial” – i.e. the opportunity to respond to the charges being made.

(iii)       When it reconstitutes, the governing body will need to consider how it will “dispense” with surplus governors if a sufficient number of governors do not resign.  Regulation 15 specifies that governors must cease to hold office on the basis of “juniority”.  However, the Secretary of State has heeded the reservations of the Education Select Committee, which recommended that this is not appropriate as it does not give sufficient discretion for the governing body to identify which existing governors should continue to hold office on the basis of her/his skills.

The surplus in the number of foundation governors will be resolved by the body appointing foundation governors using the criterion of skills.

The governing body will be responsible for resolving any surplus in every other category of governorship.   There will be a separate vote of the governing body on each category in which there is a surplus.  This vote will be specified as an item on the agenda issued seven days in advance of the meeting.  Governors will be permitted to vote on their own category.  I would strongly urge that this be done by secret ballot to deal with unfair pressure.   The regulations are silent on this matter. Governors declared surplus will cease to hold office following the casting of votes on the categories in which there are surpluses.

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