Effective governing boards know their school, see the wider picture and work in partnership with leadership and stakeholders at a strategic level. This ‘eyes on hands off’ role means consistently asking for more information, explanation and clarification. It means challenging your school to do the best by every child in the school community, and supporting the school by carrying out core responsibilities.
Key functions of a governing board
- Setting the school’s vision and strategic aims - agreeing plans and policies and making creative use of resources;
- Setting the policies for achieving those aims;
- Setting targets for achieving those aims;
- Monitoring and evaluating the progress that the school is making towards achievement of its aims, objectives and targets;
- Being a source of support and challenge to the headteacher (i.e. a ‘critical friend’);
- Ensuring the school is accountable to the pupils and parents in the community it serves, to its local community and to those who fund and maintain it, as well as to the staff it employs.
The headteacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and the implementation of the strategic framework which is established by the governing board. Distinguishing the status of different governing board responsibilities is a key skill to develop for new governors:
Strategic – related to the realisation of vision, values and aims and the responsibility of the governing board.
Compliance – issues which the governing board must ensure are addressed.
Operational – tasks which actively need doing though not by the governing board.
Governors' roles - The three key roles for governing boards as defined by the DfE in regulations and The Governance Handbook. (Published January 2017)
The current Statutory Regulations covering Governance:
The Governance Handbook sets out the statutory requirements relating to governing board responsibilities (replaces The Governors' Guide to the Law).
Competency framework for governance
The DfE have just released the new Competency Framework for Governance (January 2017) which lays out a developmental framework for the knowledge, skills and behaviours of highly effective governing boards.
Our Policies and Procedures pages offers background, guidance and models to help governing boards ensure they comply with legislation.
The DfE produces mandatory timelines to help schools understand the legal requirements they must meet. These are accompanied by useful information timelines about future changes, as well as identify upcoming activities that may benefit students.
All governing boards of maintained schools are required to be constituted under the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012 or the School Governance (Federations) (England) Regulations 2012 as amended by the School Governance (Constitution and Federations (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2014 and 2016.
The framework for governing board constitution Statutory Guidance
This guidance is about the constitution of governing boards and their size, membership and skills and governing boards must have regard to it when carrying out duties relating to their constitution.
Anyone appointing governors to the governing board must appoint someone they believe has the skills to contribute to effective governance and the success of the school. Governing boards are advised to use a skills audit to identify any specific gaps.
If a governing board reduces in size, surplus governors should be decided on a skills basis rather than length of service.
The Statutory Guidance includes a model template for the Instrument of Government, framework on the sizes of governing boards and guiding principles on the level of representation of each of the categories of governors. Governing boards can adopt a model for the size and membership that best suits their circumstances.
Instrument of government
The instrument of government is the document which records the name of the school and the constitution of its governing board. The governing board drafts any new instrument and submits it to the LA. The LA must check if the draft instrument complies with the statutory requirements, including the relevant guiding principles for the constitution of governing boards.
If the instrument complies with the legal requirements, the new Instrument will be agreed by the LA. The governing board and LA can review and change the instrument at any time. (See Reviewing and varying the Instrument in Part 5, para 30 of the Statutory Instrument School Governance (Constitution) Regulations 2012 and Part D.3 of the updated Statutory Guidance May 2014)
Financial duties and responsibilities
Each governing board has a statutory responsibility for the effective financial management of the delegated budget and Pupil Premium funding in their school to support high-quality teaching and learning, and so raise standards and attainment for all pupils. This should include:
- LA maintained schools meeting the requirements of the DfE, Schools Financial Value Standard (SFVS)
- Academy schools meeting the requirements of the Academies financial management and governance self-assessment
- ensuring that the priorities in the School Improvement Plan are fully costed and incorporated in the school budget plan as part of the budget setting process
- longer term budget planning, which includes the management of staffing, capital spending and asset management priorities.
Most governing boards will establish a Finance Committee to assist in discharging the governing board's financial responsibilities. Your school’s monthly summary reports and information about Audit and Risk Management are available on SchoolsWeb.
The Schools Financial Management Advisory Service provides financial support and advice to schools on financial administration and management and the Financial Framework describes the financial relationship between the authority and schools in its area.
Buckinghamshire County Council gives an indemnity to school governors and governing boards, where (in respect of the financial year in which the material event has occurred) the school has bought the County’s core insurance package, or arranged coverage, which it has demonstrated to the satisfaction of the County Council, is sufficient to protect the Authority’s financial interest
This applies to all categories of LA maintained (community, voluntary controlled, voluntary aided and foundation) schools, but not to academies.
The terms of the current indemnity are set out below. This indemnity stands behind the insurance cover arranged by the Authority, or the school, and supplements such cover in respect of risks not insured under it.
No person who is considering becoming a school governor, or an existing school governor considering whether to continue, should be discouraged from becoming a school governor because of concerns about potential personal legal liability, provided that they are resolved to act in good faith, to observe the boundaries of their role and powers, and to avoid actions or decisions which are unreasonable or perverse.