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Overview of Governors' Role, Duties and Responsibilities

Overview of Governors' Role, Duties and Responsibilities

The Context of Your Role

All schools seek continuous improvement for themselves and their pupils. The education system in Northern Ireland aims to promote higher standards in all schools. One way in which this can be done is by raising expectations of what can be achieved by all pupils and by strengthening the involvement of parents and the local community.

Measures employed to raise school standards include:

  • The formulation of a school development plan as an active working document.

  • A common curriculum with associated targets and assessment arrangements.

  • Ensuring a broad and balanced curriculum for pupils of compulsory school age.

  • Inspection of schools.

  • Ear-marked initiatives with associated funding.

  • A greater involvement of parents in their children's education through better information on each child's progress.

  • Greater freedom for parent's to choose the school which their children should attend.

  • Information for parents about the performance of schools.

  • A greater degree of autonomy for schools in managing their financial resources under local management arrangements (LMS).

Your role as a governor is to contribute, within the bounds of your duties and responsibilities, to this process of school improvement. Others have their part to play, not least the Principal and staff of the school. It is important that each knows and fulfils their role so that together the aim of continuous improvement can be achieved.

There are some measures which you can take in seeking to fulfil your role:

  • Get to know the school and the educational system of which it is part. Where possible meet staff, listen to reports from the Principal, read materials produced by the school, attend school functions, attend parent' meetings, become familiar with the school building.

  • Be aware of and become familiar with the procedures and guidelines which have been developed on such issues as appointment of staff, dealing with discipline and grievance, etc. These procedures are there to ensure equality of treatment and to protect you in the event of a complaint.

  • Have a knowledge of school planning through the school's development plan and the associated financial plan.

  • Work with the Principal. Your relationship with the Principal is particularly important. He/she is responsible for keeping the governors informed and for carrying out their decisions. He/she will act as a professional adviser to the governors. The job can at times be lonely and difficult. Your informed support will be essential if the Principal is to undertake his/her role efficiently and effectively.

  • Work with fellow governors. You will wish to develop collaborative and harmonious working relationships with your fellow governors. This will mean, amongst other things, accepting and being bound by majority decisions as well as maintaining confidentially.

Statutory Duties and Responsibilities

The Education Orders for Northern Ireland place a legal obligation on Boards of Governors to carry out certain tasks. The Scheme of Management addresses these issues in further detail and should be consulted when necessary.

The Curriculum

It is the duty of the Board of Governors to:

  • Ensure that the curriculum of the school satisfies the requirements of the Education Order.

  • Determine and keep under review its policy in relation to the curriculum of the school and keep up to date a written statement of that policy.

  • Take account of the findings of any inspection of the school.

  • Consider any representations made to it regarding the curriculum by the education board, CCMS or any other body or person connected with the community served by the school.

  • Consult the Principal of the school before making or varying the statement.

  • Ensure that Religious Education is provided.

Open Enrolment

It is the duty of the Board of Governors to:

  • Make arrangements for the admission of pupils to the school.

  • Draw up admissions criteria.

  • Ensure that the school's admissions number is not exceeded.

  • Ensure that the school's enrolment number is not exceeded.

  • Comply with the directions of an Appeals Tribunal.

  • Governor Membership.

It is the duty of the Board of Governors to:

  • Appoint a parent as a governor where there are insufficient nominations for existing vacancies.

  • Co-opt a member of the business community if it is felt that the Board of Governors is lacking in business expertise.

Parental Involvement

It is the duty of the Board of Governors to:

  • Prepare an Annual Report and ensure that parents are given a copy at least 2 weeks before the Annual Parents' Meeting.

  • Hold an Annual Parents' Meeting at which the above report will be considered.

Other Responsibilities

  • Preparation and approval of the school development plan and the associated financial plan.

  • The appointment of teaching and non-teaching staff.

  • Other personnel issues - discipline and grievance procedures, redundancies, dismissals, making internal promotions.

  • Inspection and maintenance of school premises.

  • Drawing up school policies - health and safety, charging, discipline, homework, pastoral care.

  • Approving procedures for managing privately raised funds.

  • Promoting community use of school premises.

  • Monitoring the LMS budget.

Support and Advice

The duties and responsibilities of governors are wide ranging and can, at times, involve making decisions which may result in difficult repercussions. Support and advice is always available from the Principal or the officers of the employing authority. If there is uncertainty it is best to consult them prior to a decision being made.

Governors' Liability

Governors will not incur any personal liability in respect of any action taken in good faith in the exercise of their delegated powers under the scheme for financial delegation.

There are no hard and fast rules on what constitutes good faith but broadly speaking it may be regarded as any act which was undertaken honestly and with no ulterior motive in the light of the information available at the time.

Reference is made in this section to the Scheme of Management (.pdf) for schools. This is an important document which carries with it legal status. As a governor you should ensure that you have a personal copy and that you become familiar with its contents. Knowingly or wilfully disregarding the procedures set out in the document can have serious repercussions.

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