Key elements of governor engagement

Governors are fundamental to setting the aims and objectives of schools. Theirs is a strategic role and success depends on their knowledge and awareness of the school they govern. This is where the SBM steps in. Jo Marshall, SBM at Uplands Infant school in Leicester, outlines some key elements of governor engagement

As all SBMs will, no doubt, be aware ensuring good governance is a key component of the effective leadership and management of a school. However, it’s not always easy to engage governors, particularly as many are juggling the responsibility along with a full-time job, their families and, perhaps, some leisure time too! With the changes to the school inspection handbook in Autumn Ofsted are now looking to see that governors are not only conducting their duties effectively but are also committed to continuous improvement, in terms of their own development, and are able to successfully hold leaders to account with regard to spending decisions.
It is, therefore, vital that we recruit governors who have the ability to commit to the school and support it to continuously improve. This involves more than attending a couple of meetings per year; it’s about getting involved, getting to know the school and being able to act as a ‘critical friend’ to the headteacher and his or her leadership team.
When recruiting governors the levels of commitment need to be explained clearly to ensure that candidates are aware of the requirements of the role. Governors need to be aware that their duties include understanding the school context and data about performance plus a willingness and commitment to training to carry out key core functions such as visits, panel hearings and contributions to school strategy. Governors need to know how important their role is and that they are instrumental in supporting the leadership and management of a school.
This can sound like a daunting task but there are things SBMs can do to encourage and support governors and increase engagement and interest in taking on the role. Ask your governors what you can do to support them in attending meetings, visiting the school and understanding the contextual data. Run a recruitment drive and invite current governors to speak to interested parents and local members of the community about the difference they make and how rewarding the role can be!

Top governor engagement tips from Jo:

  • Provide reports in a jargon-free format along with signposting to resources
  • Buy into a governor support service so they can receive advice
  • Provide childcare to enable governors to attend meetings
  • Agree the most convenient ways of communicating – be it by email, by text or by a ‘phone call
  • Provide refreshments at meetings.

This article first appeared in Education Executive
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