School governors

School governors

By becoming a school governor you will be making an important and rewarding contribution to education in your local area. Here you can find information on the different types of school governor, and the eligibility criteria. We also detail the support available.

Role of a school governor

To contribute to the work of the Governing Board in ensuring high standards of achievement for all children and young people in the school by:

  • Setting the school’s vision, ethos and strategic direction
  • Holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent

What a governor is expected to do

As part of the Governing Board team, a governor is expected to:

 1. Contribute to the strategic discussions at Governing Board meetings which determine:

  • the vision and ethos of the school
  • clear and ambitious strategic priorities and targets for the school
  • that all children, including those with special educational needs, have access to a broad and balanced curriculum
  • the school’s budget, including the expenditure of the pupil premium allocation
  • the school’s staffing structure and key staffing policies
  • the principles to be used by school leaders to set other school policies

2. Hold the senior leaders to account by monitoring the school’s performance. This includes:

  • agreeing the outcomes from the school’s self-evaluation. Ensuring these are used to inform the priorities in the school development plan
  • considering all relevant data and feedback provided on request by school leaders and external sources. This may be on all aspects of school performance
  • asking challenging questions of school leaders
  • ensuring senior leaders have arranged for the required audits to be carried out. Receiving the results of those audits
  • ensuring senior leaders have developed the required policies and procedures. Ensuring the school is operating effectively according to those policies
  • acting as a link governor on a specific issue. This may include making relevant enquiries of the relevant staff, and reporting to the Governing Board.
  • listening to and reporting to the school’s stakeholders. These will be pupils, parents, staff, and the wider community, including local employers

3. Ensure the school staff have the resources and support they need to do their jobs well. This includes the necessary expertise on business management, external advice where necessary, effective appraisal and CPD (Continuing Professional Development). You will need to understand suitable premises, and that the way in which those resources are used has impact.

4. When required, serve on panels of governors to:

  • appoint the Headteacher and other senior leaders
  • appraise the Headteacher
  • set the Headteacher’s pay and agree the pay recommendations for other staff
  • hear the second stage of staff grievances and disciplinary matters
  • hear appeals about pupil exclusions

The role of governor is largely a thinking and questioning role, not a doing role.

Things a governor does not do

  • Write school policies
  • Undertake audits of any sort. Whether financial or health and safety - even if the governor has the relevant professional experience
  • Spend much time with the pupils of the school. If you want to work with children, there are many voluntary valuable roles within a school
  • Fundraise. This is the role of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). The Governing Board should consider income streams and the potential for income generation, but not carry out fundraising tasks
  • Undertake classroom observations to make judgements on the quality of teaching. The Governing Board monitors the quality of teaching in the school by requiring data from the senior staff and from external sources
  • Do the job of the school staff. If there is not enough capacity within the paid staff team to carry out the necessary tasks, the Governing Board need to consider and rectify this

As you become more experienced as a governor, there are other roles you could volunteer for. These may increase your degree of involvement and level of responsibility (eg as a chair of a committee). This document does not cover the other roles taken on by the chair, vice-chair and chairs of committees.

 To perform this role well, a governor is expected to:

  • get to know the school, including visiting the school during school hours. Gain a good understanding of the school’s strengths and weaknesses
  • attend induction training and regular relevant training and development events
  • attend meetings (full Governing Board meetings and committee meetings) and read all the papers before the meeting;
  • act in the best interest of all the pupils of the school
  • behave in a professional manner, as set down in the Governing Board’s code of conduct, including acting in strict confidence

Time commitment

Under usual circumstances, you should expect to spend between 10 and 20 days a year on your governing responsibilities. The top end of this commitment, is most relevant to the chair and others with key roles, such as chairs of committees. It equates to about half a day per week in term time. Initially, we would expect your commitment to be nearer 10 days a year. However, there may be periods when the time commitment may increase, for example when recruiting a Headteacher. Some longstanding governors may tell you that they spend far more time than this on school business. This is because it is common for governors to get involved in other volunteering roles over and above governance.

Under Section 50 of the Employment Rights Act 1996, if you are employed, then you are entitled to ‘reasonable time off’ to undertake public duties; this includes school governance. ‘Reasonable time off’ is not defined in law, and you will need to negotiate with your employer how much time you will be allowed.

Existing governors

Support for existing governors and clerks to governors can be found in the "Services for Schools" website You will need to request an account to have access to the site, further details can be found on the website.

Categories of school governor

Parent Governors

Parent governors should be a parent of a registered pupil at the time of the election.  They are normally elected by the parents of the registered pupils of the school. A parent who is an elected member of Cornwall Council or who works at the school for 500 hours or more in a year cannot stand for election but can vote. Such governors are representatives of the parent body and not delegates. This means that they cannot be directed by the parent body to act in a certain way but they should represent the views of the parents. Parent governors may stay in office for the rest of their term of office even if their child has left the school. Should an election fail to fill all parent governor vacancies the Governing Board may appoint a parent governor. With these appointments, the governors cannot appoint an elected member of the Local Authority or a person who works at the school for 500 hours or more in a year.

Local Authority (LA) Governors

Local authority governors are nominated by the local authority but appointed by the governing body. The local authority can nominate any person who is eligible to be a local authority governor. It is for the governing body to decide whether their nominee has the skills required to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school. They will also check if the nominee meets any other eligibility criteria they have set. Local authorities should make every effort to understand the governing body’s requirements. From there they can identify and nominate suitable candidates.

An individual eligible to be a staff governor at the school may not be appointed as a local authority governor.


The Headteacher is a member of the Governing Board by virtue of their office.

The Headteacher may at any time resign as a governor, and withdraw their resignation. In both cases they do so by notifying the clerk in writing.

Staff Governors

Teaching and support staff are eligible to be staff governors. The School staff elect staff governors. They cease to hold office when they cease to work at the school. It is important that prospective staff governors understand the nature of the role of a governor. They must understand that their role will not be to represent staff, nor to stand alongside the Headteacher in being held to account by the Governing Board. They operate as part of the Governing Board to provide strategic leadership and to hold the Headteacher to account.

As with elected parent governors, staff governors cannot be removed from office. Clear expectations of role and conduct should be communicated and agreed upfront.

If no candidates are forthcoming, the position on the Governing Board remains vacant. The Board can hold an election as soon as they identify an eligible candidate.

election should be held as soon as an eligible candidate is identified

Co-opted Governors

These governors are appointed by the Governing Board. Co-opted governors are people who, in the opinion of the Governing Board, have the skills required to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school. Staff members can become co-opted governors. Staff cannot outweigh the whole Governing Board by more than one third of the total.

Foundation Governors

Foundation governors are either appointed or take the role by virtue of an office that they hold. Where appointed, appointments are made by the person entitled under the instrument of government (usually the school’s founding body, church or other organisation). Some of these governors are ex-officio. Foundation governors may be removed by those who appointed them.

Partnership Governors

This category of governor only applies to foundation schools. Nominations for this category come from the local community. People committed to the good governance and success of the school will nominate. No person employed at the school, no pupil of the school and no elected member of the LA may become a partnership governor.

Associate Members

Associate members are appointed by the Governing Board to serve on one or more Governing Board committees and attend full Governing Board meetings. They are not governors but bring expertise and experience which can add to that provided by the governor membership.

The definition of associate member is wide and pupils, school staff and people who want to contribute specifically on issues related to their area of expertise (finance, for example) can be appointed as associate members.


Source: Cornwall Council