Road to autumn

14th September 2001 at 01:00
Forget about mists and mellow fruitfulness, there's work to be done. Jane Martin helps you prepare for the new term.

September is an important time for the governing body to get in good shape for the coming year. Here are some issues to consider:

* What sort of governing body do you need? Schools are all distinctively different, in size, sector, intake, location. Review key posts and vacancies and reflect on the skills, experience and representation you need on the body.

* The chair is the most important election to be made at the first full meeting. Now elected by secret ballot, governors should reflect on whether they have the best candidate - do you need a change? Even the best chair may need a break from what is an onerous job.

Names should be on the agenda for the meeting and governors can nominate themselves. Does the vice-chair have a proper role to play? Do you need job descriptions to help you decide? Could the vice-chair be given some duties that ease the burden on the chair?

lAre you tapping into all the appropriate local businesses or community groups to fill co-opted places? Why not approach the local chamber of commerce or big local employers? For secondaries, the new learning and skills councils might be interested in forging formal links through the governing body. Don't forget voluntary organisations such as youth groups - particularly if there is a local neighbourhood renewal initiative.

* Is the body truly representative of the local community? Do not assume people will automatically come forward - you may need to go out and meet different groups. Attracting governors from minority ethnic groups can be difficult. Could you do more to support them?

lThe local education authority is responsible for filling its places on school boards, but many work in partnership with schools. The code of practice on LEA-school relations encourages authorities to select governors with relevant expertise - they should also have a clear appointments process. Many LEA-elected members already contribute a lot as governors - but many more should do.

* It is the responsibility of the head to carry out parent, teacher and support-staff governor elections and seek candidates for partnership governors - although the LEA will offer guidance and support. Parent-governors can be hard to recruit. If so, why not have an open meeting, explain what is involved and give information in the parent newsletter? Just announcing the vacancy is sometimes not enough - contact details for an existing parent-governor might be helpful.

* If in doubt about the composition of the governing body see The Instrument of Government - the LEA will have a copy. The School Government Regulations 1999 set out the procedures for appointments and elections. A quorum of two-thirds of non co-opted governors is required for co-options. This can be a close call so full attendance is important.

Remember governors should not vote on their own appointment or removal from a governing body office and should withdraw when the matter is under discussion. (Schedule 6). Ensure that all new governors are aware of the automatic six-month disqualification rule for non-attendance. (See full list of other disqualifications in Guide to the Law, chapter two).

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