Myths and Facts: Parent and Staff Governors
The role of staff and parent governors – what governors need to know
Governing Boards, the way in which they are structured and the number and category of governors, are defined in legislation for maintained schools (The School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations) and by the funding agreements for academy governing boards. Whilst the precise numbers of staff and parent governors will vary from school to school, all maintained schools and academies will have both parent and staff governors within their constitution. A key question for both groups of governors usually relates to how their role differs from that of other governors and what is expected of them.
The key point to make here is that the role of parent and staff governor is no different to any other governor. Governance is governance in all schools and all governors, irrespective of who appointed or elected them, have the same core role. Ie as Lord Nash wrote in his foreword to a previous edition of The Governance Handbook (November 2015), all governors “play a vital role in ensuring the best possible education for every child by creating robust accountability for school leaders.”
We currently have a stakeholder model of governance where representative members of key stakeholder groups such as parents, school staff, members of the local community, Local Authority nominated governors (maintained schools) and, where relevant, those appointed on the basis of faith in a church school together constitute the governing board. These groups are stakeholders because they all have a stake or a vested interest in the achieving the best possible outcomes for pupils in our schools. It is the role of these individuals and the role of the governing board collectively, to ensure that schools are held to account for achieving the desired outcomes for pupils. Stakeholders each bring their own invaluable perspective to the task of ensuring effective governance and successful schools.
Statutory guidance for maintained schools, published in August 2015, whilst not mandatory for academies, provides “good practice” advice for them too, if they wish to follow it. The guidance states that governing bodies “should make every effort to conduct informed parent and staff governor elections in which the expectations and credentials of prospective candidates are made clear.” It is vital that all governing bodies understand their roles and their responsibility to ensure that prospective governors are clear on the common role that they all share.
Myths about staff and parent governors
- Parent Governors represent the views of the pupils and their parents. This is not the case: parent governors are elected as “representative” of the parents and carers of registered pupils in the school. They are not delegates and should not see it as their role to bring issues of concern to parents to governing body meetings. Where a parent has a concern, they should be pointed in the direction of the appropriate member of school staff (in accordance with the school's complaints procedure.)
- Staff Governors represent the views of school staff. This is not true. Every governor should bring their own individual perspective to governing body meetings, drawing on experience and knowledge gained from their role in the school. But they are not surrogate union reps and the expectation that they bring the 'view of the staff' should be dispelled.
- Parent and Staff governors should seek the opinions of others. Neither parent nor staff governors should see their role as holding surgeries with other parents/staff members, unless they specifically asked to do this by agreement of the full governing body.
- Parent Governors can’t sit on Headteacher Appraisal Panels. Parent Governors can serve on Headteacher Appraisal and any other type of panel (exclusion, disciplinary, complaint hearing etc) provided that there is no conflict of interest (eg it would be inappropriate and difficult for a parent who knows the pupil/parents to sit on a complaint panel). All governors are expected to respect confidentiality and if this expectation/trust is proven to be misplaced, then the governing body will sanction the governor using its agreed code of conduct.
- Staff Governors should not be sent part 2 (confidential minutes) All governors are entitled to receive all minutes of all meetings. Minutes should be drafted with circumspection ensuring that personal information or any information that may lead to an individual being identified, is not included. As an example, Pay Committee minutes should only contain anonymised information that does not enable individuals to be identified and salary values or details should not be detailed (over and above use of generic terms such as point increases).