Answers your questions
If you are contemplating becoming a governor it would be a good idea to contact your LEA governor services manager for a reading list and training details.
The first thing to say is that the governing body works as one and the responsibilities belong to the whole group. Individual governors have influence but no power. They may by agreement have areas of work to take a particular interest in, and all will contribute freely to discussion and have a vote, but any legal powers and duties belong to the group corporately and are settled by majority vote. Good teamwork is therefore essential.
Governors contribute to an effective school through the management of the budget, the selection of senior staff, and the establishment of sound policies to guide its various activities. In a voluntary-aided school they must also ensure that the religious education conforms to the tenets of the providing church.
The first duty is to watch the school's academic standards and contribute to improvement in its performance. This means taking an interest in what is taught and how, studying test and exam results and supporting the staff in achieving the best possible outcomes for all pupils. The governing body should also ensure that the school is well-managed, has effective teachers, treats everyone fairly, maintains good relationships and behaviour, and communicates effectively.
It is important to realise, however, that how these things are achieved is a matter for the head and professional staff and that governors should not attempt to intervene in the detailed running of the school or the teaching.
But they do act as an appeal panel in cases in which pupils are excluded from school for long periods or permanently, or when a teacher is subject to sanctions for unacceptable behaviour or performance. They may be involved in teacher appointments and they are wholly responsible for the selection of headteacher and deputy.
They keep a watchful eye on relationships between the school and its parents and community and approve, as necessary, the use of the school outside school hours. They may occasionally have to make an important decision on the future of the school. An important new duty is to share in the production of a school profile, which is kept up-to-date at all times and is the basis for the new short-notice inspections.
Finally, governors who represent parents, staff, church foundation, LEA or community should be watchful to ensure that the group concerned receives relevant information.
Questions for Joan Sallis should be sent to The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX, fax 020 7782 3202, or see www.tes.co.ukgovernorsask_the_expert where answers will appear