Perfect Chair

The role of the chair of governors – what does it involve? Think C-H-A-I-R

In no particular order, I would suggest that these are some important aspects of the role:

Co-ordination – the practical business of conducting the full governing body meetings. This involves liaison with the clerk and the headteacher to ensure that the agenda reflects the priorities of the school, as well as compliance with statutory duties (eg the annual review of the terms of reference of committees). The chair of the meeting also has responsibility for making sure that everyone is able to participate in discussion, that the action points from decisions are agreed, and that the meeting does not go on until the early hours.

How are we doing? Whilst the chair is a governor like any other, and is not necessarily more “expert” than anyone else, it is helpful for them to be reasonably knowledgeable about the business of governance, and local and national trends. In particular, the self-review process of the governing body (and possibly the performance management of individual governors) is usually driven by the chair, so one would expect them to have a sense of what makes an effective governing body, and the ability to identify areas for development.

Allocation of duties – some aspects of the governance role are specifically assigned to the chair and vice chair (eg chair’s power to act in an emergency) but that should not mean that the chair operates in isolation or has to shoulder all the duties. Delegation of many responsibilities can be made to committees or to individual governors. It is important that the chair is able to support the headteacher, and for matters to be discussed between them in confidence, but they should beware of establishing a secretive relationship from which other governors are excluded. Sharing information in a timely manner will help the whole governing body to fulfill their role – note page 9 of the DfE Governor Handbook which states that “all governors should be able to fully engage with discussions about the performance of their school.”

Inspiration One of the key roles of the governing body is to ensure clarity of the strategic direction that the school is taking (“ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction“). The chair will be instrumental in driving forward what the governing body seeks to achieve because more often than not he / she is the public face of the GB, and is the person asked to meet the representatives of the local authority / diocese / DfE when the occasion arises. Not every chair needs to be charismatic but they should be able to articulate the vision set by the school leadership, and help to inspire the governing body in working towards its long term goals.

Responsibilities The role of the chair as spokesman is nowhere more critical than in an Ofsted inspection. Although the Ofsted guidance specifies that inspectors should meet “as many governors as possible”, it is undoubtedly the chair who will take the lead part in discussions between the inspectors and the governing body about the leadership and management of the school. For this reason, it is vital that the key messages about the strengths and weaknesses of the school are understood, as well as the steps that the school and governing body are taking to ensure high standards of education for the pupils. It is unlikely that even an articulate and persuasive chair could pull the wool over the eyes of inspectors visiting a failing school, but I think it would be quite possible for an inept chair to bring down a school’s Leadership and Management grade by revealing their lack of understanding or a demonstrable capacity to sustain improvements.

All of the above is the contrived introduction to a musical tribute to chairs who achieve the necessary balance of working with the clerk to ensure meetings are run efficiently, knowing what needs to be done and by whom, having a clear idea of the school’s values and goals, and a proper sense of the importance of Ofsted and their own role. Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you … “Perfect Chair”

Just a perfect chair
Meetings planned out with the clerk
So that later, when it gets dark, we’ll get home.

Just a perfect chair
Knows what we ought to do
And the process of self-review is in hand

Oh, you’re such a perfect chair
I’m glad we voted for you
Oh, such a perfect chair
You just keep us focussed in
You just keep us focussed in

Just a perfect chair
Problems aren’t faced alone
You don’t do it on your own
You can share.

Just a perfect chair
You made us forget Ofsted
We thought of the school instead
And our aims.

Oh, you’re such a perfect chair
I’m glad we voted for you
Oh, such a perfect chair
You just keep us focussed in
You just keep us focussed in

We’ll get a grade on what you show (grade, grade, grade)
We’ll get a grade on what you show
We’ll get a grade on what you show ….

We’ll get a grade on what you show

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