school governors who are they and what do they do

Are you looking to make a difference in your local community? Maybe you’ve seen school governors in action and have considered becoming one yourself? You might have also been put off by complicated sounding acronyms or, thought you weren’t experienced enough for the role? To be a school governor, you don’t need any specific qualifications. 

There are many misconceptions within governance that to be a school governor, you need to have worked in the education sector, or reached a certain point in your career – neither are true. In this blog we’ll explain the role of school governors, as well as bust some myths about who can take up the role.  


So, let’s begin with what school governors actually do…

School governors are responsible for overseeing the management side of a school. They focus on strategy, policy, budgeting, and staffing, working alongside senior leaders and supporting teachers to provide excellent education to children.

Being a school governor is a commitment to attending governing board meetings which consider issues such as setting the school vision, mitigating financial risk and scrutinising educational outcomes. School governors are also involved in the school community, acting as critical friends to the headteacher and senior leaders.

The main responsibilities of a school governor include:

  1. Ensuring the strategic direction, vision and ethos of a school.
  2. Holding executive leaders within a school to account on various issues.
  3. Overseeing financial performance and ensuring money is well spent across a school.

If this sounds overwhelming, don’t worry – nobody expects you to know everything about the world of governance straight away. Even experienced governors learn new things in every meetings and it’s a role where you’ll pick up a lot of information as you go. Below we explain these main responsibilities in more detail:

Setting Strategic Direction

School governors will work with the headteacher and senior leadership team within a school to help develop a vision and establish long-term goals. It’s the school governors responsibility to then provide strategic oversight. This is to ensure that the school remains focused on this core mission and it’s objectives. They’ll achieve this by monitoring and evaluating the school’s performance across the academic year. Additionally, this involves reviewing academic results, financial statements, and other key performance indicators. By holding the school accountable, school governors help drive continuous improvement.

Holding executive leaders to account

The relationship between the governing body and the headteacher is fundamental to a school’s success. School governors provide support and challenge to the headteacher. This ensures that they have the resources and support needed to lead the school effectively. While it’s the senior leadership teams that make the decisions in schools, school governors are responsible for providing challenge and strategic oversight on these decisions. This will involve for example; checking policies, doing school visits, and even talking with key stakeholder groups to see how the school could better achieve their goals and responsibilities as an education provider.

Overseeing financial performance and budgeting

School governors are also responsible for overseeing the school’s budget, ensuring that resources are used efficiently and effectively. They will look at how spending is distributed across the institution. They will then make suggestions on where things can/in their opinion, should be changed. This provides a much-needed level of scrutiny to ensure schools are budgeting in the areas they need.


What are the requirements to become a school governor? 

As long as you’re over the age of 18, most people can become a school governor. You don’t need to be a parent/be responsible for looking after a child, or have worked in education. Boards need people with a range of skills and backgrounds to run effectively. School governors bring expertise from their professional lives to the governing board and schools benefit greatly from working with skilled volunteers. This may include, for example, anyone with experience of finance, law, premises management and /or human resources. A school governor with business know-how can transform the running of a school. 

There is an assumption that because of the nature of the role, you must have vast experience in your field. Governing boards, above all however, are looking for the qualities and lived experience school governors can bring. Everybody has meaningful skills, softer skills such as communication, negotiation, and knowledge of your local community are just as valuable as business skills. As such, we encourage you to apply regardless of where you are in your career.  


How can we help?

As a charity, Governors for Schools finds, matches and supports thousands of volunteers onto school boards every year across England and Wales. Our dedicated partnership team is here to help you find a school in your local area. We’re here to support you through the whole application process. 

Our support doesn’t just end once you’ve been placed. We have a library of free resources on our website that you can take advantage of. This will help you enhance your knowledge of the role. We also run dedicated campaigns – such as our new Inclusive Governance campaign. This campaign is dedicated to promoting inclusion, equality and diversity within the governance landscape. 


Ready to find out more?

This blog post was created as part of our ‘School Governors’ series. Click below to read our next entry to find out more about the benefits of the role. Alternatively, if you’re ready to apply to become a school governor, you can visit our quick application form.

Benefits of taking on the role