So, you want to be a Chair of Governors?
Being a Governor is really rewarding, but as with everything, you get out of it what you put in. It is a job of work, albeit an unpaid job of work, and that means a commitment to put in the time and energy to being successful and playing your part in giving every child the best educational experience possible.
You may now be considering stepping up and offering to be Chair of Governors. Or you may feel that there is nobody else on the Governing Board who can fulfil that role, so you feel you need to step up. But what does it mean to be a Chair of Governors, how does it differ from being a Governor?
All Governors are equal, all have equal voting rights. The Chair does not have any more voting rights in general decisions, the only exception to this is if the Chair needs to use their power to act in emergency situations. The Chair of Governors is sometimes referred to as the ‘first amongst equals’, which is a strange term and almost sounds a bit ‘George Orwell; Animal Farm’, but the term simply refers to somebody with the same power but with more responsibility. Think of the Prime Minister within Government.
So, a challenge for a Chair of Governors is how to motivate and lead a team who are volunteers and have the same power.
Now consider that the Governors are the lead professionals within the School, the strategic leaders. So, the Chair of Governors needs to lead and motivate a professional group of unpaid volunteers but has exactly the same power as everybody else.
Still want to be a Chair of Governors?
As a Chair of Governors, you still have a responsibility for the three core functions of governance, but your focus is slightly different. You also need to ensure all of your Governors know and understand the three core functions. So, for the first one, do your Governors understand their contribution to the strategic direction of the School? Have they got access to the School Development Plan and understand how their work influences it? With regards to the second, the data core function, have your Governors got access to accurate and timely information in order for them to effectively challenge the Headteacher? Do they understand the information being presented? Are they straying into the operational when asking questions about cohorts? Can they recognise trends, and have they read the information prior to the meeting? Finally, for the finance core function, do Governors have the necessary skills to be able to look at the budget and ask questions?
There is an increase in the time commitment in being a Chair of Governors. The NGA recognise that it takes time to be an effective Chair of Governors and they state that Chairs should expect to give around 20 days per academic year to their duties, so about ½ a day for every school week. In my view, this is about right, it is a commitment – a job of work.
The culture and ethos of the Governing Board is set by the Chair of Governors and so by definition, as the Governors are the strategic leaders of the School, the ethos of the School is set by the Chair of Governors. How the Chair runs meetings will set the culture of the Board, for better or for worse. An effective Chair of Governors will be open and transparent in all discussions and encourage every Governor to contribute. It is often said that the most effective Chairs of Governors are the ones who speak the least within meetings.
The Chair of Governors needs to steer the Governing Board to be the professional partners within the School. Governance often goes wrong when Governors join the Headteacher Supporters Club, or they abdicate their responsibilities, or conduct their business in an adversarial manner. Sometimes these can be appropriate, and an effective Chair will recognise when to do so, but the Governors must quickly move back to being the professional partners.
If you still wish to progress to being a Chair of Governors and wish to find out more, then please speak to the team at GovernorSpace to gain access to a mentor.
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