An introduction to the Governors at Sands
The governors at Sands are not like the governing bodies of others schools; they do not govern.
Sands is a democratic school where decisions are taken collectively by students and staff at the School Meeting, so governors do not tell the school what to do, they do not set the direction of the school’s development, they have no authority over the running of the school. In fact the governors are quite specifically barred from voting in the School Meeting.
So why have governors at all? Well, they are a legal requirement and they can have a useful role to play. The governors at Sands are:
- The guardians of democracy at Sands; they will act to prevent any person or group over-riding the decisions of the School Meeting or gaining authority over the running or development of the school, be they the Head (administrator), the staff, parents, students or even governors.
- A critical friend to the school; the termly governors’ meeting hears reports from the school administrator and from the students and this provides an opportunity for issues to be discussed. Sands governors bring a breadth of experience and perspective which can be called upon.
- The legally responsible body; Sands is a Company, a Charity, an Employer and a School registered with the Department for Education (DfE) all of which require compliance and reporting. The governors act as the official face of Sands and make sure that the school conforms to its legal duties.
- The arbitrators of last resort, available to help if called upon by the School Meeting if there are issues which the school feels it is unable to deal with or resolve or which are not appropriate for the school to deal with. The school’s procedures for managing complaints and staff grievance / discipline have specific roles for the governors and / or the chair of governors.
- The governors agree a budget for the school and monitor progress against the budget. The governors’ role is to ensure sound financial management and agree fees and salaries, but the budget should reflect the priorities set by the School Meeting.
- The governors ensure that the school meets the standards required by the DfE; these are inspected by Ofsted and the governors must ensure an Action Plan is put in place and acted upon to address any short-comings.
Who are the governors?
There is no prescribed formula for the make up of the governing body but it is currently largely made up of parents of children who have left, current parents, former staff and former pupils. The current students are encouraged to take part in governors’ meetings but they cannot legally be governors unless they are over sixteen. It is also healthy to have governors with no connection to the school but who bring particular expertise or areas of interest which strengthen the governing body. Not more than 50% of the governors should come from any one of these groups.
The school administrator, other staff and the school bursar attend the governors’ meetings but are not governors.
Jyles Day is the Chair of Governors and Donald Barr is clerk to the governors.
The role of the chair of governors
The chair is elected by the governors but has no powers other than when authorised by the governors to act on their behalf. This is mainly an administrative position; making sure that the necessary decisions are taken rather than taking them. The chair:
- Prepares agendas for meetings, and to chair them. They makes sure everyone speaks who wants to, encourages the students present to take part, takes or makes proposals when discussions have gone on too long, etc.
- They signs the minutes for the previous meeting when they have been approved, and makes sure someone is taking the minutes for the current meeting.
- Makes sure that the Governors take the necessary decisions about fees and salaries, after receiving all the relevant information.
- Sees that the school obeys the law with regard to company returns, forms for the Charity Commission, etc.
- Sees that there are the right number of governors (from five to twelve), that they meet three times a year, that meetings are quorate (at least five governors present), etc.
- Sees that there is an AGM once a year, preferably as soon as the accounts for the previous year are ready, and to write a Chairman’s Statement for the official accounts, which can be prepared in collaboration with the accountants and the Administrator.
- Is informed immediately about any appointments and dismissals of staff, and expulsion of students.
- When there are major discontents in the school, or complaints from parents or staff, that are not handled by the school meeting, either to step in personally to help the school community to solve the problem, or to delegate the responsibility to another governor.
The governance of the school is set out in three legal documents:
- the Memorandum of Association
- the Articles of Association
- the Instrument of Government
These are available on request as is a summary of the main points.