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What to Expect as a Governor

What to expect as a Governor at Penn Wood Primary & Nursery School

Welcome to governance and thank you for volunteering!  Being a school Governor is a significant responsibility and an incredibly rewarding experience, where you will make a positive difference to the lives of children and young people in your community.  Whether you have been co-opted to your Board, elected by the parents or staff or nominated by your Local Authority, you will want to feel confident and effective in your role.  Like any new role there is a lot to take on board, and your knowledge and understanding of education and governance will grow with time.  Volunteers tell us that it takes them about a year to feel confident in the role, so do not worry about grasping everything right away.  Here are some ideas of what to expect and what you can do to navigate your new role.

Our school Governing Board

  • Being inducted:  A high-quality induction, which includes information specific to the school and training on your role and responsibilities, is essential for effective governance.  Penn Wood will arrange for you to attend 4 Governor induction training sessions.  Your induction process will also include meetings with the Chair, Governance Professional and Headteacher along with documentation to read.
  • Getting to know the school:  Before your first visit or meeting, get to know the organisation by reading information on our website, prospectus, and the most recent Ofsted report(s), alongside the strategy, vision and values information and the School Development Plan to give you an idea of the current priorities and challenges facing the school.  
  • Visiting Penn Wood:  To get acquainted with the school and to get used to a school environment, do arrange to visit in person.  We will give you a tour of the school and the opportunity to speak with some leaders, staff, and pupils, as well as learning more about parents and the community.  
  • Before your first meeting:  You will receive an agenda and papers a week in advance of Governor meetings.  This will give you time to read through, look up anything you need to and prepare any questions you may want to ask.  You will also be provided with minutes of recent meetings to get an idea of the kind of topics and discussions that take place and the format of the meeting.
  • Asking constructive questions (and listen to what others ask):  Our Board has a balance and diversity of views around the table and will value the fresh and different perspective you bring, so if you have a question at your first meeting,  we will welcome it, so please ask.  
  • Your buddy/mentor:  Our Governance Professional will provide all the necessary support to get you started with confidence.  Once you have met the other Governors they will set an example of governance practice and encourage you to reflect on your role as you go along.

Understanding governance

  • Training:  Whether you are brand new to the whole thing or bring governance or education experience to the role, engaging in a wide range of training – from local face-to-face sessions to eLearning – is strongly recommended.  There is general training about the role and responsibilities, and in-depth training from curriculum and pupil success to finance and resources.  You may wish to build on an existing interest and knowledge of a topic, fill a gap in your knowledge or concentrate on an area which is a priority or challenge for your school.  Our Governance Professional will signpost you to what is available locally and the specific services we buy into such as the National Governors Association (NGA).
  • Acronyms and terminology:  Education, like any other sector, is full of acronyms and technical words.  Although professionals do their best not to use them in meetings and in papers, does occur, do ask for clarification.  You will be provided with a glossary for descriptions of a wide range of education terms.
  • Knowing your role:  It is important that Boards stay strategic in overseeing the big picture, not getting involved in the day-to-day running of the school.  To remind us of this we "think eyes on, hands off”.  There are four core functions of governance plus important responsibilities as the employer of staff:

1. Establishing the strategic direction, by:

  • Setting the vision, values, and objectives for the school(s)/trust
  • Agreeing the school improvement strategy with priorities and targets
  • Meeting statutory duties


2. Ensuring accountability, by:

  • Appointing the lead executive/Headteacher
  • Monitoring progress towards targets
  • Performance managing the lead executive/Headteacher
  • Engaging with stakeholders
  • Contributing to school self-evaluation


3. Overseeing financial performance, by:

  • Setting the budget
  • Monitoring spending against the budget
  • Ensuring value for money is obtained
  • Ensuring risks to the organisation are managed


4. Ensure that other key players with a stake in the organisation get their voices heard by:

  • Gathering the views of pupils, parents and staff and reporting on the results

Reaching out to the school’s wider community and inviting them to play their part

Using the views of stakeholders to shape the school’s culture and the underpinning strategy, policies and procedures



Governors are expected to prepare for meetings by reading any papers in advance.  There are 6 Full Governing Board (FGB) meetings per year, each lasting two hours, held in the school.  You may also be asked to sit on the Resource and Pay Committee which meets 3 times annually online.  Attendance is recorded by our Governance Professional and it is crucial that Governors’ attendance remains high throughout the duration of their term.  


Once inducted, and settled into their role, Governors at Penn Wood are allocated a special role, often in line with their area of interest and expertise, and the school development plan priorities.  Governors are expected to make one or more visit(s) annually (during the school day) and report back to the Governing Board.

The bigger picture

  • Networking beyond your Board:  Social media is great for building connections and sharing ideas and information with the governance community – on Twitter you can use #UKgovchat and on Facebook search for school Governors’ groups. And do follow NGA at @NGAmedia for regular updates.
  • Reading widely:  There are oodles of blogswebinars, research, podcasts, books and magazines available on governance and various education and leadership topics. Be inquisitive: read and listen to things that take your fancy and reflect on how you can apply what you learn to your role.
  • Stay updated:  Reading (or watching or listening to) education news is useful to understand the context that the school is operating in and the external events that are going to impact your school.  All the main news websites have an education section, and there are dedicated outlets like Schools Week and Times Educational Supplement (TES) too.  Each week, the NGA team helpfully interpret the education news for a governance audience and share this through the member e-newsletter.  You can also subscribe to the Governance Update from the Department for Education.  Each term your Governance Professional will attend a briefing meeting at the Local Authority where the latest governance obligations and duties are shared and these will be shared with you promptly to ensure that you are working with the school in a compliant manner.
  • Telling your employer:  If applicable, do let your employer know that you are volunteering as a Governor and check if they can support you with time off to carry out the role.  Discussing your governance role with your manager as part of your professional development will help your employer value the benefits both to you and to them. You may also find that some of your colleagues govern and you can share experiences and learnings with them, by joining or setting up a staff governance group.

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