Kate Marriott

How to become a School Governor

An extraordinary quarter of a million people volunteer their time and skills to oversee state schools in England in the interests of pupils. It is an important thing which they do on behalf of the rest of us, ensuring the country’s schools are as good as they possibly can be. They come together in governing boards that set the vision and ethos for schools and trusts.

They make important decisions about staffing structures, what limited funding is spent on, as well as recruiting, supporting and challenging headteachers and executive leaders. School Governance as we currently know it in the UK, has been around for just over 40 years and plays a strategic role with three key functions:

  1. Approving the budget and overseeing the financial performance of the school to make sure money is well spent
  2. Appointing and holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  3. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

Being part of a Governing Board will give you experience of working at strategic level and the opportunity to learn and practice skills that have direct relevance to employers. These include:

  • Strategic leadership
  • Budget control
  • Data analysis
  • Staff recruitment
  • Building relationships and networks
  • Effective teamworking
  • Communication
  • Problem solving Influencing/negotiation

It will also introduce you to aspects of education which will help inform your understanding of teaching and learning and other related areas. These include:

  • SEND
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Teaching pedagogy
  • Exclusions
  • Admission
  • Policies
  • Whole-school attainment and progress targets 
  • Ofsted inspection

It’s important to note that as a Governor, you are not involved with the day-to-day running of the school, that is the role of the Headteacher/Principal and their Leadership team. It is expected and encouraged to visit the school, meet the students, teachers and parents and be a visible member of the Governing Body. This will help you to understand your school and the community in which it serves.

Last year, the National Governance Association published their Governor Volunteer and Board Practice School and Trust governance in 2022 which gathered the views of over 4000 governors and trustees. The report seeks to understand what it is like to be involved in school and trust governance in 2022 and draws on longitudinal data that NGA has collected in the previous 11 years of the survey.

So, what is it like to be a School Governor and what makes some people want to get involved? Let’s hear from Dr James Frater – a School Governor in North West London.

“As someone with Caribbean heritage, it was especially important to me to become a governor because we are oftentimes underrepresented in these spaces, whilst too many students - particularly those with Caribbean heritage - aren’t having their needs met by the schools they attend. The role allows me to not only be involved in the decision-making, but also allows me to advocate for different underserved communities at a strategic level. As a result, I hope, the decisions we make better meet the needs of the school and the local community.

More broadly, it is a great way for me to serve my local community and help to positively shape the experiences of the young people within it”.

To understand more about the history of School Governance, have a read of The recent history of school governance has been one of an accelerating decline in democratic accountability.  If you are interested in becoming a School Governor or would like further information, please check out Inspiring Governance.