Interactions of Non-Staff Governors with Staff Representatives

9 Dec

The role of a staff governor is unique, in that the staff member is part of a discrete interest group with whom s/he interacts daily.

Colleagues will have expectations of the governor they elect.  They expect her/him to

  • keep them informed about what’s coming up;
  • listen to their concerns;
  • ensure that their concerns are passed on to the governing body; and
  • be briefed about the outcomes of meetings – especially on those aspects that affect their work.

There are dilemmas. 

(1)          There is a difference between a delegate and a representative.  A staff governor is not a delegate, obliged to vote according to instructions from the constituent group, but rather votes according to her/his conscience and what the governor considers is in the best interests of the children at the school.  The role of a representative is to communicate, alert (those she/he is representing) about what’s coming up, listen to views, report to governors on those views and report back to colleagues on governing body meeting outcomes.

(2)          There are confidential matters on which the staff governor cannot report back.   Where individuals are discussed at meetings in certain cases, the staff governor is bound by confidentiality.  However, other matters – including the draft minutes approved by the chair – can be made known to all and sundry.

(3)          However, in reporting back, it is important to paint a general picture and not go into painful detail about who said what and how the voting went on any one matter.

(4)          Certain matters – relating to cases – should not be brought to the attention of governors, just as parental complaints are proscribed.  Colleagues have the option of raising a grievance.  However, policy matters – such as, for instance, the structure of the school day – is a different issue altogether.

(5)          Staff may have conflicting views on issues.  It’s important to represent these faithfully.  If there is limited finance, different departments will wish to be treated as priorities.   The staff governor should represent these views and air the pros and cons of different options.

(6)          Taking a stance that the headteacher is likely to oppose is always problematic.  If the staff governor proposes to raise a matter which could spark a headteacher’s ire, the governor should let her/him know in advance.  Sometimes, it is not possible to give advance warning on matters that could be raised by others.  The staff governor needs to be brave and disagree courageously without being disagreeable.

(7)          If a staff governor has a personal interest in any matter and/or can gain from the decision that the governing body makes (or a close relative could benefit), s/he must declare that interest and withdraw from the meeting when that matter is discussed.

Staff governors have the same rights and responsibilities as other members of the governing body.  However, because they are also employees, they will be privileged in having inside knowledge of how the school is running.   The flip side is that, given that a staff governor has at least two hats when functioning on the governing body, s/he must be careful about donning the right one in dealing with the school issues.

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