Like Parent Teacher Associations, school Governing Bodies have a reputation for being mysterious do-gooders who do nothing but get good seats at school productions.
What is it that governing bodies do though?
Governing bodies have representatives of the school teaching and non-teaching staff, local authority, community, religious leaders and parents.
They meet at least three times a year (although in practice its often many more times than this), and they carry out a number of functions.
Firstly, they are responsible for appointing the head teacher and also supporting them in their leadership role.
Although they do not manage the school, they do help to set the strategic direction the school will take, they also help to draw up policies, objectives and targets (although in practice, many of the policies are adopted by recommendation from the local authority, and the objectives and targets will be set by the staff and ratified by the governors).
The governing body also approves the school budget and then reviews the school’s progress against that budget and also the objectives and targets that have been set.
Parents are invited to join the body (for a period of three years), but it’s not something that should be entered into lightly.
Full meetings can last a few hours a term, but there are also sub-committees, working groups and the large bundles of papers that arrive beforehand that need to be read and noted.
Most local authorities offer excellent training and support services for governors and they are well worth making use of.
You will be asked to take responsibility for some aspect of learning or pastoral care (like child protection or European links). It will be well worth spending some time in the school as well, getting to know the staff, children and how things work day to day in the school.
Being a parent governor is also likely to mean that people will approach you on the playground to ask your help or advice. If this happens, direct all questions to the appropriate class teacher or the head, it’s also worth mentioning the encounter so that the school is aware that you are being used by the parents – this is really important for them to know.
There are NO monetary rewards to being a parent governor, but you are likely to get good seats for school plays and events, a copy of the school newsletter and some chocolates at Christmas and Easter.
The real rewards are in the training you receive and also the knowledge you gain about how a school is run.
You will learn things (like how much different members of staff earn), and you may find yourself having to make decisions about staffing and how money should be spent, so you often have to remember that there are things you can’t discuss with your friends on the playground.
Make no mistake that becoming involved on the school governing body is rewarding, but hard work involving a commitment of great time and effort. Your contribution will be greatly appreciated by the school community.