For a career-minded teacher, the role of staff governor is appealing. Not only does it signal your interest in the way the school is managed, it will also be valuable experience.
"If you have any ambition as a teacher, you are going to have to deal with the governing body at some stage in your career," says Phil Revell, outgoing chief executive of the National Governors' Association. "It makes sense to find out how it works, particularly for someone who has aspirations for headship."
Staff governors sit alongside those nominated by the parents and local authority - or those appointed by the sponsor in the case of an academy - but there is no distinction between their roles. Staff governors are not the eyes and ears of their colleagues; they are there to govern the school.
"That is not to say that a staff governor can't raise staffing issues, but they are not there as a representative of the staff," says Mr Revell, a former teacher governor. Staff governors can come under pressure from colleagues to behave like a union representative, he says, but that is not how the role is envisaged.
There are some restrictions. Staff governors cannot chair the governing body, or be its vice-chair. It would also be inappropriate to act as a clerk, Mr Revell says, although this is not a legal restriction.
Teacher governors are allowed to take part in discussions about staffing issues, unless they have a financial interest beyond that of other members of staff - for example, if the governor is a candidate for a post under discussion. Staff governors can also sit on interview panels, although they cannot be part of the headteacher's performance review panel.
Disciplinary panels provide a potential source of conflict of interest. The general rule is that if you have a close relationship with the person concerned - either teaching the pupil or being a close colleague or friend of the teacher - you should not sit on a panel discussing their case.
Although this is not set down in law, it makes it less likely that the panel will be accused of bias and that its decisions will be open to a legal challenge. For small schools, this effectively means staff governors cannot take part in these panels at all.
Staff governors are expected to adhere to the same rules on confidentiality as other governors. "You shouldn't accept the role if you are not prepared to do that," says Mr Revell. Breach of confidence could lead to suspension from a governing body.
Promotion does not affect a staff governor's role unless it is to headteacher, when they should vacate the place on the governing body reserved for employees. Teachers who leave a school during their term of office are no longer eligible to serve on its governing body.
NEED TO KNOW
- Becoming a staff governor is a good way of finding out how the governing body works.
- Any member of staff is eligible to stand for election.
- Staff governors fulfil a similar role to other governors and are not expected to represent staff on the governing body.