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Good Governance

Effective governing bodies have:

  • a full complement of governors
  • an effective chairperson
  • good attendance at meetings
  • open and hones relationships between governors and the headteacher
  • new governors inducted to their role

Governors need to work well with each other and they need to have open and honest relationships with the headteacher and staff.

Effective governing bodies publish to clear annual programme that shows the dates of committee and full governors’ meetings.

In schools where governors work together well, everyone knows what is expected of them.  Effective governing bodies have clear terms of reference for their work, including for each of their committees, and these outline the roles and responsibilities of each group.  Terms of reference contain information on the frequency of meetings, the tasks to be done and by when, and, in the case of committees, how information will be fed back to the full governing body.

The work of various committees can have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the governing body.  Such committees are often responsible for making key recommendations to the full governing body.

Diocesan guidance on the terms of reference for key governing body committees can be downloaded from Committee Terms of Reference.

  1. Curriculum Committee – Terms of Reference
  2. Community Committee – Terms of Reference
  3. Premises and Finance Committee – Terms of Reference
  4. Staffing Committee – Terms of Reference
  5. Appointed Governors for Headteachers Performance Management – Terms of Reference

In some schools each agenda item is given an approximate time, and the chair uses these time allocations to ensure the meeting does not run late.

Good governing bodies make sure their agendas and minutes are made available to the staff.

Where governors work together effectively, they invariably ensure they have a programme of training to support their own development.

In the more effective schools, governors ensure their own training is linked to the school development plan.

Where governors and the headteacher have worked effectively to clarify the school’s aims, levels of consultation have been good, involving teaching and non-teaching staff, and in some cases, parents and pupils.

Many governing bodies have school aims that refer to a broad and balanced curriculum, to promoting high standards, to equality of opportunity, and to preparing pupils for life beyond the school.  In the best schools, governors also ensure that their decisions support their aims, and have clear strategies for checking they are being implemented.

Where governors monitor the school’s policies effectively, they have a list of what ought to be in place, the time each policy was ratified, and a rolling programme for reviewing the state of these policies over time.

Given a systematic approach to policy review, governors can be confident they have structures to address any areas needing attention.

Where governors develop good documentation they have:

  • clear aims that underpin the school’s work
  • plans for developing and improving the school (for example, action plan, school improvement plan)
  • schemes of work that detail what pupils are to learn and be able to do
  • policies that show how the school will operate and the values that it promotes
  • information for parents that shows how the school is performing (for example, annual report for parents).

Governors are more effective when they recognise the difference between monitoring, which is checking that actions are being or have been taken, and evaluation, which is measuring the effect of the actions on the school’s performance.

Governors need to be clear about how they and the school will evaluate of effectiveness of action taken.

Using precise success criteria allows governors to monitor and evaluate the effect of the actions taken and to ask for reasons if targets are not met.

Questions governors should ask when monitoring pupils’ attainment:

  • how do our results compare overall and by subject with those of previous years? (are they rising, holding steady, or fallings?  Have we met our targets?)
  • how do they compare with national standards?
  • how do they compare with similar schools?
  • how well do different groups of pupils progress?  (key stages, year groups, gender, ethnicity, special educational needs, high attainers?)
  • how do different subjects compare with each other?

Where governors become more efficient at monitoring and evaluating the school’s results, they often have a clearer view of what the curriculum priorities need to be in the next development phase.

Governors should know what the PANDA says about their school, because it may raise a number of important questions or help governors to set realistic targets.

If governors are to monitor and evaluate the school’s work they need to visit the school.  The visits to schools by governors work well when the focus of the visit is carefully agreed in advance, and understood by all involved.

In a number of schools, governors attend training sessions with staff, in order to develop a shared understanding of new initiatives.

Governors always make sure that their visits to the schools are recorded in some way, so they can monitor the pattern of visits that have taken place.  Some schools have designed a special form for governors that records who visited and when, what the focus of the visit was, and contains a brief reflection on what took place.  This works well, and can be shared with other governors.


A Guide to the Law for School Governors 2004. DfES.  Copies of this guide can be ordered directly from the DfES distribution centre by phone on 0845 602 2260, or by email to dfes@prolog.uk.com

There area four versions of the Guide to the Law for School Governors.  Please ensure that you request the Voluntary Aided Schools version.

Amendments to A Guide to the Law for School Governors 2004 were made in January 2005.  Please visit www.governornet.co.uk, click on Guide to the Law and see the Amendments article for important information about how to go about updating your copy of the Guide.

www.governornet.co.uk is the DfEs website specifically for School Governors.  It provides a range of information about legislation and good practice.

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