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Role of the chair

Role of the chair

"...the most effective chairs of governors galvanise the rest of the governing board into action, delegating responsibilities to make the most of the expertise that exists, and reforming the ways in which governors conduct their business so that the needs of the school are more efficiently met."

'Making it Better: Improving School Governance', Ofsted

In maintained schools, the role of the governing board is to conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement. The Governing board does this by:

  • Providing a strategic direction for the work and improvement of the school
  • Supporting, monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the school ('critical friend')
  • Ensuring accountability for the standards achieved and the quality of education

As 'first among equals' the Chair of governors has a key role to play in helping the governing board to work as a team to challenge, support and contribute to the strategic leadership of the school.

An effective Chair will have a clear view of the governing board and how it is to work and will take the lead on governing board Self-Evaluation. He/she will help to develop the shared vision for the school and understand how that vision is to be achieved. The Chair will work effectively with the headteacher, senior leadership team and governing board to establish a constructive relationship focusing on strategic direction and school improvement.

The chair will assist and encourage the governing board in gathering and using information for monitoring and evaluating progress in achieving the objectives in the school improvement or development plan, in order to challenge and support the leadership team of the school. He/she will understand the governing board's accountability to its stakeholders for its decisions and actions and the impact the governing board has on the school's performance.

Working with the Clerk, the Chair will maintain a working knowledge of statutory requirements to ensure that the business of the governing board is conducted properly and according to these statutory requirements. The chair should understand what the governing board has a right to know and what it has a duty to do.

Advice and Support

The clerk to your Board will usually be your first point of call for guidance on any procedural matters. They will work with you to shape agendas and advise you on any statutory governance matters.

Chairs of Governors are able to call upon National Leaders of Governance for support; further information can be found on the Department for Education website, including how to find out about people in your area.

Delegating Roles and Involving Governors

The Chair's individual authority extends no further than that delegated by the governing board. The Chair may act alone only in the case of an urgent matter, where to delay would be "seriously detrimental to the interests of the school, a pupil at the school or their parents, or a person who works at the school.". When such action has been taken, the chair must report his/her actions to the governing board at the earliest opportunity.

Some activities are not the responsibility of the Chair, but it is likely that the Chair will be the governor who carries these out. As the 'public face' of the governing board. The Chair will attend school and external events and will, at all times, be the school's most active ambassador and servant. The Chair will be the contact for prospective governors, both to explain the role of school governor and to facilitate election and appointment to the governing board.

Ofsted will generally interview the Chair, where possible, when they inspect a school. The Chair may investigate if a formal parental complaint is made. In exceptional circumstances, as part of the role, the Chairman or Vice-Chairman may need to take responsibility for managing an allegation made against the Headteacher.

Although the Chair has little power, he/she can have a great deal of influence. However, the Chair will be mindful that the governing board shares a corporate responsibility. He/she ensures that good use is made of the experience and skills of its members in carrying out the work of the governing board, individually and at Committee level.

The Chair can play a lead role in ensuring that the organisation of the governing board allows all governors to contribute, make corporate decisions and share in the work of the governing board. The Chair works with the Headteacher and Clerk to ensure that the whole governing board is kept well informed.

Managing Meetings Effectively

The Chair motivates members of the governing board by ensuring that the views of all are heard and individuals feel valued for their contribution to the team effort. in meetings, the Chair must steer and develop the meeting to ensure that all agenda items are covered and that the meeting achieves its objectives, making the best use of time available.

The Chair ensures that governing board agendas are set appropriately and that meetings are run effectively. In doing so, he/she is in charge of making sure everyone has the opportunity to voice their opinions in a fair and rational manner; that debates don't get too heated and that decisions are made.

He/she has to ensure governors don't get sidetracked or quibble over the smaller details. The body language of meeting attendees can indicate how the meeting is going. The Chair can read the positive or negative body language of other Governors to see they're engaged, attentive, hostile or bored.

Holding Regular Meetings with the Head

The Chair is often the governor closest to the Headteacher and the leadership team of the school. The Headteacher and the Chair will agree a regular meeting schedule. The quality of this relationship between the Chair and the Headteacher is one of the most important factors in a successful partnership between the governing board and the school.

The Chair can, and should, build the mutual trust and understanding which enables the whole governing board to play its full role. Some issues discussed by the Chair and the Headteacher may need to remain confidential, but careful thought should be given to which information is confidential and which should properly be shared with the governing board. The Chair's relationship with the headteacher must not exclude the other members of the governing board.

Working in Partnership with Stakeholders

In addition to working closely with the school's leadership team, the Chair also has a role to play in representing and accounting for, the governing board in its relationships with a range of stakeholders who share an interest in the success of the school. These include all members of staff, the pupils and parents, the Local Authority, the Diocese (where appropriate), the local community (including other schools) and other local and national agencies including Ofsted.

The Chair will play a key role in explaining what school governors do an in encouraging new governors to join the team.

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