Back to school: a governing body checklist


Author: Al Kingsley, Chair of Hampton Academies Trust and MD of NetSupport Limited.

With all the focus on recent exam results and new staff arrivals, it’s easy to forget that it’s the start of a new school year for Governors too – and that means focusing on what’s important for the start of this term as well as the year ahead.

Things differ a bit between LA schools and Academy schools, as some of the policy and planning will be delegated to Trustees and not the local school governing body, but there is still plenty that every governing body, no matter what its status, needs to have in hand.

Here are some of the obvious and easy bits to plan:

  • Elect the Chair and Vice-chair of the local governing body (Chair may have already been appointed by the Trust).
  • Appoint your clerk to the local governing body (if appropriate).
  • Set or review meeting dates for the year and check for clashes with any key school events.
  • Review your scheme of delegation to identify functions delegated to your local governing bodies.
  • Based on the above, discuss and set some governing board objectives for the year.
  • Approve the school improvement plan (may not be something always done at the start of the school year).
  • Approve appropriate policies for the year ahead (again, Academy local governing bodies will have far fewer of these to consider).
  • Review your school’s external exam and test results and consider any outcomes or plans that need to be shaped and tracked over the coming months. Even with good results, it is likely one segment of the cohort could have done better, or your upcoming year group may pose different needs.
  • Set plans in place either for the local governing body, (or a sub-committee) to review staff performance and progression/salary considerations

Other things to consider:

  • Organise induction and training requirements for any new governors (a time to meet the Chair, meet the Head, undertake a tour of the school, provide with appropriate paperwork to sign, possible training course availability and dates, etc.)
  • Arrange relevant governor visits to your school for the term ahead.
  • Update and complete register of pecuniary interests.
  • Appoint dedicated governors (links) for specific areas of the school for closer monitoring and feedback (Pupil Premium, SEND, Safeguarding arrangements, Finance).
  • With regard to finance, the role of the Responsible Officer as previously required under FMSiS (Financial Management and Standards in Schools) is still a really worthwhile role for better scrutiny and liaison with the day-to-day financial running of the school as well as monitoring of Asset Registers etc.
  • Review minutes from last year and ensure each challenge is visible and evidenced from each meeting. If not, you either aren’t asking enough questions, or your clerk needs to signpost and record better.
  • Check the school’s website displays all of the information required by Ofsted – (school’s contact details, admission arrangements, Ofsted reports, exam results, curriculum info, policies, complaints procedure, Pupil Premium, Sport Premium, SEND info, governor details and school values – with the option to request paper copies.).
  • For chairs and vice chairs, look to see if there is a local governor leadership group or LA-based governor forum where you can share ideas with your peers.

Cover all of the above for a start and your new school year for governance should get underway without too many hiccups.

About the author

Al Kingsley is Chair of Hampton Academies Trust in Peterborough, Chair of the city’s Governor Leadership Group and MD of NetSupport.

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