The importance of good governance


Although the role of governors has changed drastically over the last few decades, they still remain absolutely vital for schools to run effectively. More and more emphasis is being put on the accountability of the governors to run the school correctly. Although not strictly from an academic background, governors set the strategy for the school or MAT as it moves forward. This also means that they are responsible for choosing where resources would be best spent, ensuring the budget is spent in line with what was agreed, and providing a checks-and-balances like system for the school's senior management team to continually raise standards while maintaining good outcomes for the pupil's and good pupil welfare.

The most important thing you need to be a governor is simple – it's a drive to give the children at the school a better outcome. Having a real interest in education and child development is a huge benefit, as being astute with an ability to ask the right (or difficult) questions. Being able to work well with others in a team is also a key advantage. There are often many meetings with long agendas and having the capability to keep everyone on track and in agreement with only gentle disagreements is an art. For more information on how to improve your meeting dynamics, click here.

Like in every role, there are good governors and there are bad ones. Although most governors are committed to improving their chosen school using their skills, others might not have had training to fulling understand education in the UK and so are unable to critique the school in the correct way. Governors are 'critical friends' to their CEO and so need to ask the right questions and be able to probe the answers. There should be a range of skills on the board of governors, however, it is critical to have governors with knowledge of business, finance, law, property and education to be able to guide the school accurately.

It can be easy to do when you're passionate about something, but governors shouldn't concern themselves with the finer details of school life. The role of governors is to provide strategic leadership to the school or MAT. They set the ambition both for its pupils and for the growth of the MAT. Governors should discuss plans and progress, rather than people. Governors only have a finite amount of time to do an enormous amount of oversight. At best, getting bogged down in the minutia or tackling areas that don't concern you slow you down. At worst, it can lead to a negative culture of nit-picking and judgement for teachers and other lower-level staff.

Governors should be elected with a clear purpose. When electing a governor into an opening, try to set out clear criteria that you need in your new governor. Although it can be tempting to take on a personable parent representative with few skills, it's important that they have something to bring to the table.

Keystone offer governance reviews which can ensure that your board's documents are meet the requirements, identify strengths and weaknesses and offer improvements. Click here for more information.

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