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Parent Governor Elections

The following applies to Maintained Schools – Academies should check their articles.

When a parent governor’s term of office comes to an end the position becomes vacant.  If the parent governor in the post wishes to continue as a governor they would need to re-stand for election (if they are still eligible) alongside any other candidates who choose to apply.  A governing body cannot re-appoint a parent governor without there being an election, and it cannot extend the term of office for the current parent governor.


What is a parent governor election?

It is the process by which parent governors join the governing body.   Every governing body must have at least two parent governor positions (most have two).  When there is a vacancy, anyone who is eligible to become a parent governor at the school is entitled to stand.  If only one candidate applies before the closing date for nominations then they are elected-without-ballot into the vacancy.  If more than one candidate applies a ballot must be held (see below.)  If no candidates apply the board may look to recruit a parent governor from outside the parent body (see bottom of page.)


Who has the responsibility for the election?

In a Community or Voluntary Controlled school, it is the responsibility of the Local Authority but this is usually delegated to the headteacher.  In Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools, it is the responsibility of the governing body.  Again, in practice, this is often delegated to the LA, and thence to the headteacher.  The headteacher is typically the returning officer for the election, although they may delegate this and/or other functions to staff (e.g. school business manager, office manager or clerk to the governing body.)


When should the election take place?

It is good practice to start the process before the end of the current parent governor’s term of office.  This is because it can take over a month to complete the process.  


Ideally there should be no gap between end of the out-going governor’s term of office and the start of the in-coming parent governors’ term,  however this isn’t a statutory requirement.  If the out-going and in-coming governor are one and the same then bear in mind that if there is a gap, they will not be a governor during that period and therefore must not vote at governor meetings (they can still be invited to attend if the governing body agrees.)


If a parent governor steps down from their post before their end of term, it’s recognised there may be a delay before a new parent governor can be elected due to the length of the process, but it’s advised that the process is started as soon as reasonably possible, e.g. within a month.


The letter inviting nominations.

All parents  (see definition below) must be informed of the impending parent governor election and invited to stand.  It is acceptable for this to be done by letter sent by pupil post.


The letter should explain the duties and responsibilities of parent governors, the circumstances which might disqualify a parent from standing and the length of term of office. A message about the role from an existing governor and an outline of the time commitment and expectations of the role might be helpful. Parents could be told that while specialist knowledge or relevant experience are useful, common sense and willingness to give time are key requisites.  If the governing body has identified a skills gap in its membership and wishes to promote this then the letter can do this.  However, it will be for the parent body to elect the candidate that they choose (ie the letter cannot insist on a certain skillset.)


The letter must also be clear on how to apply - ie it should provide the nomination form to be completed and sent with a short candidate statement and a signed declaration that the candidate is eligible to stand (for more information on disqualification criteria, see below).  The deadline for nominations must be clearly stated as any nominations coming in after this deadline cannot be accepted.


 “Parent” in relation to parent governors is defined as including “any individual who has or has had parental responsibility for, or cares or has cared for, a child or young person under the age of 18”. It includes any person who the child lives with and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the child. The reference in the definition must be to someone involved in the full-time care of the child on a settled basis.  In order to be eligible to stand, the candidate must have that responsibility for one or more children on the school roll at the time of the election.


Elected members of the Local Authority are not eligible to be parent governors (they can be other categories of governor).  Anyone who is paid to work at the school for more than 500 hours in any consecutive 12-month period is also not eligible to stand for parent governor election.  However, if a parent governor is subsequently employed to work at the school for more than 500 hours, they may serve out their term of office.  Staff who are also parents may vote in parent governor elections.  There are other criteria which will disqualify an individual from being any category of governor.  Please see the bottom of this page.


Governing bodies should take steps to ensure their membership is diverse in reflection of the demographic of the school and local community.   Members of ethnic minority groups may need encouragement to stand for election. Information may need to be given in other languages besides English. (NB See 2003 research into barriers to participation by under-represented groups for background information on this aspect of governance)


The ballot process.

If, at the deadline for nominations, there are more candidates then vacancies,  election will be by ballot.  All those with parental responsibility are entitled to have one vote per vacancy (irrespective of the number of children they have at the school).   For example, if there are five candidates for two vacancies, each voter can vote for two of the candidates.  Schools are obliged to keep a register of parents with parental responsibility, so this is used to ensure all those eligible are informed of their right to vote, and to give them access to the process.


Ballot papers should be sent out, with the candidates’ election statements to help voters make their choice, and with clear instructions on how to vote.  The deadline for voting must be advertised, as votes received after this deadline will not be counted.  Seven days is considered a reasonable time over which to hold a ballot.


It is a legal requirement that voting is in secret, if not it could render the election null and void.   For a paper ballot process, the school should provide a securely fastened and clearly marked ballot box for the return of ballot papers.


Some schools concerned about the security of the ballot operate a double envelope system, whereby the voter’s name or voting number is on the outer envelope, which is checked off and discarded, leaving the ballot paper in the sealed inner envelope until the count.


There are electronic voting systems available which may meet the criteria for providing a secret ballot, however schools must consider the data protection implications (ie does the school’s privacy notice advise parents of the use and storage of parent governor election data) and maintained schools must offer a paper alterative to those who wish for it.   To avoid risk of double-voting, schools will need to keep a record of who has voted by paper (see double envelope above) and a method of checking that the same individual has not voted electronically in duplication.


How are votes counted?

The counting of ballot papers should be carried out under the supervision of the headteacher (in consultation with the returning officer if this role has been delegated) and in the presence of at least one other person not directly involved in the election. Candidates should be told when the count is to take place so that they can attend or arrange to be represented at the time of the count if they so wish.


The headteacher/returning officer has the discretion to declare ballot papers spoilt if needs be. The criteria should include whether the voting intention is clear and also that no more votes have been cast then vacancies being contested. A mark other than an X or additional comments will not necessarily invalidate a ballot paper. Ballot papers will be considered spoiled and are not to be counted where there is any mark which might reveal the identity of the voter.


The rules set out by the local authority or governing body should indicate what is to happen in the event of a tie – e.g., drawing lots, toss of a coin.


Who meets the costs of elections?

All costs associated with elections should be met by the school budget.


Typical election timescale

Advertise the vacancy on Day 1, allowing two weeks for nominations and preparation of a short electoral statement from each candidate: ie deadline date is Day 14.


If same number of candidates as vacancies:  election is finished, with the candidate being elected (start date: from end of outgoing term of office OR current date if the previous term is ended already.)


If more candidates than vacancies:  Days 15-21 prepare ballot system and voter list.  Day 21 - Send out ballot papers / open ballot with a 7 day window for voting.  Day 28 – count votes and announce result.  (Successful candidate(s) start date: from end of outgoing term of office OR current date if the previous term is ended already.)


If no candidates – see ‘what happens if there are no candidates’ below.


What do we do once we know who has been elected?

Notify successful candidate (if not at the count) and the unsuccessful candidates (thank them for standing and for their interest in school governance)

Parents should be informed of the result by letter (pupil post is again acceptable) and by use of other communications eg school  newsletter/website.

Pass contact details of the new governor to the clerk (if not involved in election process) to get in touch regarding next steps (welcome, DBS check process, declaration of business interests forms, link to chair or governor mentor, meeting dates, induction training dates etc.)


What happens if there are no candidates for parent governor election?

If there are no candidates, the governing body may seek to recruit a parent governor, who will be “appointed” by it – ie. if an eligible individual (see below) is found, the governing body will make the appointment at its next FGB meeting and the person then becomes an appointed parent governor (the distinction between ‘appointed’ an ‘elected’ is important - when entering the new governor's details on Get Information about Schools the correct option should be selected, and the governor details on the school's website should also make the distinction (ie in category it would be  'parent goverrnor appointed by the board' rather than 'elected by the parent body'.)


Who would be eligible to be appointed parent governor?

The law say that schools must make every reasonable effort to fill parent governor vacancies through election.  However, after proper measures have been taken to attempt to elect a parent at the school, the governing body may approach other groups to appoint:

  • a parent of a registered pupil at the school, or if that is not possible;
  • a parent of a former pupil at the school, or if that is not possible;
  • a parent of a child of, or under, compulsory school age.

This also applies to community special schools and foundation special schools, but for these schools the appointment criteria are:

  • a parent of a registered pupil at the school, or if that is not possible;
  • a parent of a former pupil at the school, or if that is not possible;
  • a parent of a child of or under compulsory school age with special educational needs for which the school is approved, or if that is not possible;
  • a parent with experience of educating a child with special educational needs.