Headmaster's blog at Newcastle School for Boys
The importance of governance
In my prize day speech a few years ago, I suggested, irreverently, that governors were like bidets. They added a touch of class but nobody really knew what they were for. My tongue was firmly in my cheek and I quickly followed up expressing my genuine appreciation of the valuable work undertaken by those on the governing body of Newcastle School for Boys.
It is an exciting time in the School’s history. We are a young and ambitious independent school now firmly established in the local educational landscape. We are working with great energy to realise the next stages of our ambitious vision for the School. Governors are valuable members of our school community and have an important and rewarding role to play in all of this.
The role of a school governor can be misunderstood. However, the importance of good governors and their contributions shouldn’t be underestimated. The role is sometimes confused with that of a member of a parents’ association. Parents’ associations also have a valuable role to play in supporting schools but it is a different one to governors.
School governors have a legal corporate duty to determine the overall direction and development of a school. Governance structures can vary. Like many independent schools, Newcastle School for Boys is an incorporated company and charity and as such our governors serve as its directors and trustees.
The time commitment for governors can be as little as preparing for and attending around three meetings a year. In practice, many governors give more as their other responsibilities allow.
Governors undertake valuable and rewarding work. Much of it can go unseen and some of it is challenging. They give strategic direction to the school. They monitor school performance and suggest ways in which it can be improved. They listen to pupils and staff and see examples of lessons and pupils’ learning.
Governors support the process of school inspection. They support and challenge the Head. They oversee management of the school’s finances. They support and attend school functions, such as prize day, concerts, etc. They review school policies. They have particular responsibilities in monitoring health and safety, safeguarding and the procedures involved in appointing staff and much more besides.
I am fortunate at Newcastle School for Boys that our governors also provide expert advice from their own professional backgrounds.
The relationship between the Head and the Chair of governors is a crucial one and, again, I am lucky that I have a strong relationship with our Chair of governors, Tim Care, who is a lawyer by profession.
Sometimes governors are parents at the School. We have had a number over the years. This is good for the School in the sense that they have a vested interest. It is also important that governors understand that the role of an effective governor is different to that of an interested parent.
We are always on the lookout for new governors who have particular specialisms and backgrounds to complement the existing team and support our school’s development. If you have an interest and/or a background that you think could be helpful to the School, please do not hesitate to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org