Issues every governor should consider or query

Thursday 25 August 2016

Apart from the everyday responsibilities of the governing body, there are occasional political issues that have to be addressed. Here are the risks inherent in some of the most common

When the head and bursar don’t seem to get on.


  • Low staff morale due to the mixed messages from each individual.
  • A lack of clear strategic direction.
  • A weakening of financial and business control.
  • One or both individuals leaving the school.

A fellow governor (or chair) has been in post too long.


  • Complacency.
  • A skills gap.
  • Awkwardness at committee meetings.

Other governors are too cautious when considering future development.


  • Risk of not doing something may be greater than doing it.
  • Head becomes disillusioned and moves on.
  • School gets overtaken by competition.
  • Without long-term planning, buildings may become out-of-date and the cost may end up being greater than investing now.

When a governor is a pushy parent.


  • Governor is perceived to be biased, so isn’t trusted by other governors.
  • Perception among other parents that governors’ children get preferential treatment.
  • Genuine issues sometimes receive lower priority as overtaken by those raised in relation to this one child.

The head and chair seem too friendly.


  • A cosy relationship can mean the chair feels unable to challenge the head.
  • Other governors feel disengaged.
  • Decision-making becomes stale as there is no positive tension.

A fellow governor wishes to bid for a school project.


  • Conflict of interest.
  • Perception of a lack of transparency.
  • Bad publicity.
  • Is the building governor’s role compromised if the project encounters problems/delays?

Your school is successful, so what should its priorities be now?


  • Complacency.
  • A subsequent “good” inspection will seem like a failure, which might lead to demoralised staff and pupil withdrawals, although the latter is only likely if the inspection report is less than “good”.
  • A governing body with its eye off the ball could miss changes in legislation.

Other governors confuse the distinction between operational and strategic.


  • Governors not fulfilling duties and responsibilities.
  • No sufficient oversight on issues affecting long-term viability.
  • School does not move forward.
  • New governors do not feel engaged in the direction of the school.

These and other questions are addressed in more detail in Governance Insight, a termly, scenario-based magazine that leads to best practice in school governance. For more information, go to: