Who's who at a governing body meeting

The chair

The chair and vice chair are elected by the governing body, usually at the autumn term meeting for a term of office agreed by the governing body.

Most governing bodies choose to elect the chair each year, however a chair can be elected for up to four years. Staff governors cannot be elected as chair.

The chair clearly has an important role and to be effective needs the confidence of all of their colleagues.

The vice chair of the governing body acts as chair in the absence of the chair of governors.

Their main tasks are to:

  • Support and encourage new governors
  • Build and maintain an effective team
  • Construct and agree the agenda for meetings, together with the headteacher, and the clerk to the governors
  • Plan and keep good order in meetings
  • Ensure governors' participation in, and between, meetings
  • Ensure all decisions are understood and that the necessary action is taken
  • Ensure governors receive relevant information
  • Check that the decisions taken by the governing body are enacted
  • Ensure governors know the rules that keep governing bodies democratic are well known and followed
  • Listen and be a critical friend to the headteacher
  • Report decisions of the governing body to parents, staff and others regularly
  • Co-ordinate the governing body role in the Ofsted inspection
  • Monitor the work of the governing body
  • Represent the school in public meetings and parents' meetings

At the meeting, they should ensure that:

  • All items are discussed properly
  • Everyone has an opportunity to speak
  • Decisions are made in a sensible and effective way

The headteacher

The headteacher:

  • Should present a report to the governing body each term
  • May seek governors' advice on certain matters
  • Will generally contribute their expertise in the field of education

As a general rule, the governing body is responsible for a school's policies and strategic direction; the headteacher is responsible for the school's day-to-day management and decision-making.

The clerk to the governors

The local authority's (LA) role in supporting and advising governing bodies is one of major importance. In recognition of this, Salford LA offers a service level agreement (SLA) to governing bodies so they can have an experienced clerk to the governors attend their full governing body meetings.

Under this SLA, senior officers from the Democratic Services team of Salford City Council are linked to a small number of governing bodies, providing support and advice in the following ways:

  • Representing the Strategic Director of Children's Services at governing body meetings
  • Introducing the Strategic Director of Children's Services reports at governing body meetings
  • Advising governors on policies, legislation and meetings procedures
  • Investigating action points as requested by the governing body, reporting back to the meeting as necessary
  • Acting as a first point of contact between the school governing body and the Children's Services directorate

It is a legal requirement that all meetings of governing bodies and their committees have someone in attendance to take notes. This is so that minutes of the meeting can be prepared. Regulations stipulate that this person may not be a member of the governing body.

Under the SLA the clerk to the governors also provides the following services for one full governing body meeting per term:

  • Taking the minutes at the termly full governing body meeting
  • The preparation and presentation of draft minutes to the chair and headteacher, not later than 20 days after the meeting has taken place so that they can check and amend them
  • The production and distribution of the draft minutes to each member of the governing body

The clerk to the governors and the Governor Services team work very closely together to make sure each governing body gets a high quality service.

Schools who appoint their own clerk to the governing body

The Strategic Director of Children's Services is not the clerk to the governing body in every Salford school. Governing bodies of all schools may, if they wish, appoint someone other than the Strategic Director of Children's Services to act as their clerk. However, regulations state that the appointed person must not already be a member of that governing body.

The clerk to the governing body has an important role to play in making sure the governing body's work is well organised (e.g. notice of meetings, agenda, minutes) and should also be able to offer advice and information, particularly on matters involving the law and meetings procedures.

For governing bodies appointing their own clerk, the link officer's primary role is one of liaison between the LA and the governing body, and to provide advice on local authority policies and procedures.

Governing bodies may also choose to make their own arrangements for the minuting of meetings. This is normally the responsibility of the clerk but may be undertaken by another person who is not a member of the governing body.