School governors provide critical challenge and support to the leadership team of a school with the ultimate aim of driving up standards. Acting as a school governor is a fantastic opportunity to have an impact on education and positively influence children’s lives. 

The role of a school governor

Make a difference

The fundamental purpose of the role and the main motivation should be to make a positive difference to the life chances of children. 

School governors provide critical challenge and support to the leadership team of a school with the ultimate aim of driving up standards.

Acting as a school governor is a fantastic opportunity to have an impact on education and positively influence children’s lives.

Get to know your community

Governors are part of the strategic leadership team of a school, and what better way to get to know your community than support an institution which lies at the heart of it?

Schools are always tied deeply within the fabric of their community and it is part of the role of being a governor to ensure the school is accountable to the area it serves.

Develop your skills

As well as giving something back to the community, school governors develop a range of both new and existing skills.

There is a wealth of training available to governors which offer opportunities for professional development. It may be that governors develop their professional expertise in a specific capacity, for example with financial professionals on a Finance Committee.

Or it could be softer skills which governors develop like team working as the governing board deliberate to come to a vital decision. Being a governor is a fantastic chance to develop your skills in a unique environment.

Improve your knowledge about the education sector

Whilst experience in education is a valuable attribute for governors to have, as a new school governor you are not expected to have a working knowledge of the education sector.

What is more important to the role is to have a relevant working skill set or experience (HR, data analysis, finance, project management) as well as a commitment to the position.

You will gain a fascinating insight into how schools work and how the education sector is changing. It may be that you want to get a better understanding of your child’s education or you may have an interest in the sector more generally.

Whatever your intrigue, you’re guaranteed to gain a further appreciation of the work of teachers and school leaders as well as the type of challenges schools face.

It’s a challenge

There’s no denying that being a school governor is a challenge, but that’s a good thing. The role should be a challenge (because it’s important) and it can put you out of your comfort zone when you have to get to grips with new policies, procedures and problems.

This challenge does not necessarily mean the role is time consuming – though of course it can be – but it will certainly challenge you to think in new ways and work with new people.

It may be that you are putting your professional skills to use in a new context or getting to grips with a whole new sector, but the very challenge of the role should be embraced and most governors find this very rewarding.

It’s fun!

Being a school governor is fun. The positive feedback we get from governors far outweighs the occasional negative experience which can occur (as can happen with any role).

The fact that the role is so enjoyable is probably one of the main reasons why there are so many governors giving up their time to help. A great way to find out why governors enjoy the role is to chat with someone who is a governor!

Try and chat to friends or colleagues who have experience in the role – you’d be surprised how many governors you know.

Who can become a school governor

You don't have to have children at the school to be a governor. However, you do have to be over 18, and pass a formal check for your suitability to be within a school. 

No specific qualifications are required but there are certain expectations.

What's really important is that you have energy, enthusiasm, time and a real desire to help provide children with the best possible education for children and young people in Sheffield.

Governors come from all sections of the community, and all walks of life.

They can be parents, staff at the school, residents in the locality or representatives of local churches or businesses. It is important that you can work as part of a team, and can give commitment to the school.

Skills & experience

Effective governors do not need to be experts in education – the main requirement needed is enthusiasm and commitment to the role. Children rely on good strong governing boards who are able to provide effective challenge and support to the school leaders.

An effective governing board needs to have a range of governors who are skilled and experienced in areas such as:

  • strategic planning
  • identifying problems/considering solutions
  • finance and budgeting
  • procurement and purchasing
  • data analysis
  • Health and Safety
  • links with business/community
  • understanding of education policy

Time commitments

The time needed to be an active school governor can be as little as 6 to 8 hours each school month. This includes preparation time for meetings and visits.

The normal term of office for a school governor is 4 years. But governors are volunteers who can leave at any time.

They can also be re-appointed or re-elected.

The amount of time will vary depending on how much you are able and willing to give to the role. If appointed you should be prepared to:

  • attend meetings - the governing board must meet at least once a term. Governing boards also have a number of committees who report back to the full governing board. You will probably be asked to serve on at least one committee
  • read through papers and minutes prior to the meeting so that you are prepared for any discussions before you get to meetings - which are normally during the evening but can be during the day
  • attend training to develop your skills as a governor

Training

We have always placed a great emphasis on the importance of governor training. 

With this in mind, we have worked closely with Learn Sheffield who are co-ordinating the full range of governor training and development opportunities.

Governors of schools and academies who subscribe to the service will have access to a yearly programme of courses that respond to national and local initiatives as well as having access to unlimited online governor training.

Disclosure & Barring Service (DBS) check

In Sheffield we are committed to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children and expect Governors of our Schools to share this commitment.

An appointment to a school's Governing Board is subject to an enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check.

Apply to become a school governor

For information about Parent Governor and Foundation Governor positions please contact the school direct. Contact details are available in the Schools' List.

For co-opted Governor and Local Authority Governor positions, complete the 'Application Form to become a School Governor'. Please email completed forms to us.

We will then put you in touch with governing boards who may have a suitable vacancy and where your skills match those requested by the governing board.

Alternatively, you can contact one of the national charities (School Governors One Stop Shop and Inspiring the Future) that work with schools to help them fill governor vacancies.  

School governor training, help and resources

Governor support service

We are able to offer a range of support services to schools and academies across Sheffield. These are subscription services which can include:

  • help with planning the agenda and structure of your governing board meetings
  • provision of a well-trained clerk who will support the governing board at their meetings, advising on governance, constitutional and procedural matters
  • dedicated support, advice and guidance provided online or by telephone during normal working hours
  • access to a wide range of governor training, both face to face and online

Our help for governors

  • support and advice around your role
  • signposting to other sources of support eg, National Leaders of Governance, Local Leaders of Governance (LLGs), Department for Education
  • contact with key personnel with the Local Authority
  • advice and support to Governing Board Discipline Committees considering permanent exclusions

For help/support from LLGs, please email us.

Governor training

We have always placed a great emphasis on the importance of governor training.  With this in mind, we have worked closely with Learn Sheffield who now co-ordinate the full range of governor training and development opportunities.

Governors of schools and academies who subscribe to the service will have access to a yearly programme of courses that respond to national and local initiatives as well as having access to unlimited online governor training.

Support materials for existing governors

The Governor Support Service offers a wide range of materials which are accessible to governing boards of schools that subscribe to the Governor Support Service. If you would like access to any of these materials please contact us.

These materials include:

Advice and guidance on different models of school governance including:

  • academies
  • federations

Governing board development including:

  • asking the right questions
  • helping to organise your committees
  • self-evaluation and skills audits
  • statutory model policies
  • governor recruitment – support for schools
  • guidance on constitutional governance regulations
  • performance management of the Head Teacher
  • procurement of goods and services

National Leaders of Governance and Local Leaders of Governance

National Leaders of Governance (NLGs) are highly effective Chairs of Governors who use their skills and experience to support other Chair of Governors to improve school and academy performance.

NLGs have contributed to raising standards in their own school or academy by providing appropriate support and challenge to their Headteacher or Principal and by developing their governing board.

All NLGs have had training in coaching and mentoring and have at least 3 years’ experience as Chair within the last 5 years.

They aim to supplement existing sources of school-to-school support for governance offered by local authorities, dioceses, trusts and other partners. 

In Sheffield there is recognition of the importance of top quality governance of schools and of the need to strengthen partnerships and collaboration between schools to drive improvements.

We actively promote and support the NLG programme as one means of contributing to the improvement of school governance.

We believe that the additional capacity provided by Local Leaders of Governance (LLGs) in their work with Sheffield governing boards will further accelerate school improvement in the city.

Because not all experienced and high performing school governors are either eligible to apply for NLG status/apply unsuccessfully/do not want to apply, we have put in place a ‘Local Leaders of Governance’ (LLG) programme.

The aim of this programme is similar to the NLG programme, that is; to ensure that there is a group of experienced and skilled governors available who are able to be quickly deployed to support local schools.

To contact the NLGs directly for advice/support, email sheffieldnlgs@gmail.com.

School governing boards

School governance is the most important voluntary role in education.

There are 3 critical core functions that a Governing Board is responsible for:

Set the school’s strategic direction

Governing Boards are the key strategic decision-making board of every school. It is their role to set the school’s strategic framework and to ensure all statutory duties are met. 

The board should ensure that the school has a clear vision - this should include ambitions for current and future pupils, as well as for the school’s relationship with other schools.

Hold the Head Teacher to account for a school’s performance

Head Teachers are responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of schools.

It is their job to implement the strategic framework established by the board. Boards should work to support and strengthen the leadership of the Head Teacher or executive Head Teacher, and hold them to account for the day-to-day running of their school(s), including the performance management of staff.

Boards should play a strategic role, and avoid routine involvement in operational matters.

Ensure that the school’s budget is properly managed

The board’s third core function is to make sure money is well spent. It should do this by ensuring it has at least one governor with specific, relevant skills and experience of financial matters.

However, all governors should ideally have a basic understanding of the financial cycle and the legal requirements of the school on accountability and spend.

Each individual Governor is a member of the Governing Board, which is established in law as a corporate body. Individual Governors may not act independently of the rest of the Governing Board; decisions are the joint responsibility of the Governing Board.

Safeguarding children

Governors have a duty to ensure that the school meets its statutory responsibilities and ensure that the children and young people attending the school are safe.

This applies equally to maintained schools and academies. There is a duty on Governors to ensure that the School:

  1. Carry out their functions with a view to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children; and
  2. Have regard to the statutory guidance issued by the Secretary of State in considering what arrangements they need to make for the purpose of that section.

Governors must make sure their school has policies and procedures in place and take into account any statutory guidance - please refer to 'GOV.UK: Keeping children safe in education'.

Other duties

In addition to the 3 core functions and the safeguarding of children, the Governing Board is responsible for checking that the school is fulfilling its responsibility in other areas such as:

  • inclusion
  • Special Education Needs and Disability (SEND)
  • Pupil Premium monitoring and oversight of spending
  • school budget - determining how this is spent
  • the appointing and dismissing of staff
  • hearing appeals and grievances
  • forming policy on the school's curriculum and collective worship
  • setting standards for pupils' behaviour and discipline
  • making sure school buildings are welcoming and safe
  • setting and monitoring the school's aims and policies

Details of the core functions and other responsibilities can be found on 'GOV.UK: Governance handbook and competency framework'.

Who is on a Governing Board and the different types of Governor

School and Academy Governing Boards are made up of volunteers from a range of backgrounds.

Staff governors, including the Head Teacher and school staff, make up the remainder of the governing board.

They each bring valuable knowledge and expertise to the role and often take on specific responsibilities within the governing board.

In Local Authority maintained schools and most Academies, Governing Boards consist of:

  • the Head Teacher
  • Staff Governor(s) – these are elected by other members of staff employed by the school
  • Parent Governors – every maintained school governing board must include a minimum of 2 Parent Governors. These are usually parents or legal guardians of children at the school and they are elected by other parents
  • Co-opted Governors – these are governors who are appointed by the Governing Board itself, usually because the board has identified gaps in its skill set which the new governor is able to provide. Co-opted Governors can also include members of the school staff
  • Local Authority Governors – these are governors who are nominated by the Local Authority because they have the skills which the governing board needs. It is the responsibility of the board to make the appointment
  • Foundation Governors – these are governors who are appointed by a school's founding body, church or other organisation named in the school's instrument of government

Academies may have different categories of governor but still aim to have a cross-representation of members.

The type of governor you will become depends on your situation; however all governors have the same roles and responsibilities once part of the governing board.

More information about governors can be found  found on 'GOV.UK: Governance handbook and competency framework'.

Governor Support Service