About the role
As a governor or trustee, what will I do?
The governing board has a strategic role with three key functions:
- Approving the budget and overseeing the financial performance of the school to make sure money is well spent
- Appointing and holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
- Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction
As a governor or trustee you will not be involved with the day-to-day running of the school. Governors normally attend meetings in the evening, read and comment on reports and occasionally visit the schools to see first hand the impact of their work.
More and more schools are working together in multi-academy trusts (MATs) or federations – these organisations can be involved in the education of thousands of pupils and command multi-million pound budgets. Their governing bodies are called trust boards, made up of trustees, and they have a strategic role across all schools in the MAT. MATs will be looking for volunteers with experience of corporate governance, finance and/or leadership to become trustees.
For schools that are part of a MAT, the functions and responsibilities of their local governing board may be slightly different, but they still will have a strategic rather than an operational role.
The National Governance Association (NGA) has more information on its website about what governors do, including downloadable role descriptions.
What’s in it for me?
Being part of a governing board will give you experience of working at a strategic level and the opportunity to learn and practice skills that have a direct relevance to employers. These include:
- strategic leadership
- budget control
- data analysis
- staff recruitment
- building relationships and networks
- effective teamworking
- problem solving
Just as importantly, your involvement and commitment to a local school could make a massive difference to the future of young people and your community. Your input will help the school to improve and its children to get the best education possible.
Do I need to be a parent?
No, you don’t need to be a parent to be a governor. Schools are looking for individuals who have the right skills to support and challenge the school – experience in finance, HR, marketing, and operations is especially needed. Even if you don’t work in these fields, the skills and experience you bring from the world of business is hugely beneficial.
Anyone over the age of 18 can be a governor, and young adults can offer a different perspective that schools find very helpful.
What is the time commitment?
The average time commitment is 5-8 hours per month, although it will vary depending on the needs of the school and the role. This includes meetings, background reading and school visits. Most governing boards hold their meetings in the evenings.
School governors and trustees have a right to ask for reasonable time off of work for their public duties, although this may be unpaid. Your company’s HR department will be able to tell you about its policy.
Each school sets a term of office for its governors/trustees, normally 2-4 years, and many serve multiple terms. However, as a volunteer you can resign before your term is finished if your circumstances change.
Will I need training?
You don’t need any specific training to be a governor, and most schools will have an induction process to help you get up to speed.
There is a lot to take in, however, so through Inspiring Governance you will have access to online resources, publications, support and a telephone helpline from the National Governance Association (NGA). When you’re placed with a school, NGA will be in touch to explain the services you can access. This includes:
- dedicated telephone and email support to walk you through your first year
- a copy of NGA’s Welcome to Governance induction guide
- access to NGA’s online guidance centre containing a wealth of resources
- access to free training through NGA’s e-learning induction programme
- membership of the Young Governors’ Network for volunteers under the age of 40
The NGA training has been designed to be complimentary to any other training that may be offered. For example your school or local authority may also provide support and training for new governors.
I’m interested. What next?
Just click the ‘Sign up’ button below and enter your details, including the geographical area in which you’d like to volunteer. Once you complete your profile, schools in your area will be able to see it and will email you through the system when they have a vacancy that matches your background.
If you are interested, you respond to the school via the system and arrange to find out more, probably through a telephone call. You may want to visit the school. If both you and the school are still interested, you will go through the school’s normal process, which may include an informal interview.
There is no obligation to accept a position that doesn’t meet your skills or interests. All we ask is that you reply to every invitation from a school, either asking for more information or telling them that you would like to decline.
Please note: Volunteers who accept a governor role will need an Enhanced Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. This normally will be arranged by the school or trust.
My employer isn’t keen. What can I do?
Many employers support their staff volunteering as governors or trustees, but if your employer is reluctant, it is probably because they haven’t understood the role or its benefits. They may think it will take a lot of time, require numerous daytime meetings, or distract you from your work. None of these is true for the vast majority of governors.
There are many benefits for you, your employer and the community. You will gain professional experience that will help you at work and in your whole career. Your employer will benefit from you further developing your skills, such as strategic planning, teamwork, influencing, communication, financial management, and more. They will, at the same time, be supporting their local community.
Here are a few resources that make the case for employee volunteering:
Business in the Community blog Volunteering Brings Benefits to Business and Employees
Employee Volunteering website Benefits to Business