Thanks to our associate experts Jacqueline Baker, Brendan Hollyer and Harry James for their help with this article.
What does it mean to ratify a decision?
Broadly speaking, 'ratify' means 'give formal consent to something, making it valid'. When going through the recruitment process, your board will select some members to be part of the selection panel. It is the selection panel’s job to present a recommendation to the rest of the board, and there must be a majority vote in favour of appointing the selected candidate. This process is referred to as ratification.
Is the governing board required to ratify the decision?
For a headteacher to be appointed, the full governing board must ratify the decision of the selection panel to appoint that candidate.
This is set out in regulations 15 and 27 of the School Staffing (England) Regulations 2009.
Although you have more freedom to determine your recruitment processes, it's recommended that you have a selection panel and that the full board ratifies the panel's decision.
Check your funding agreement, articles of association and scheme of delegation in case these set out a particular process you need to follow.
You can find out more about the selection panel in our article about requirements and eligibility.
Ratifying the decision
You'll ratify the appointment during a meeting of the board.
Note: staff governors in maintained schools can attend and vote at this meeting (the Department for Education told us this). Staff trustees in academies should usually be able to as well, but check your trust policies and articles of association.
At the meeting:
The selection panel will present their preferred candidate
The panel will also outline the reasons for selecting them. Although the ratification meeting shouldn't be a re-run of the interview, the panel might highlight some of the strong responses the candidate gave.
Ask questions to hold the selection panel to account
To make sure the selection panel has conducted the process thoroughly, ask:
- Did the panel follow the process decided on by the board?
- Your board will have set the recruitment process – for example, deciding if it includes observations (such as a lesson or assembly) and/or meetings with members of staff or pupils
- Were there any extenuating circumstances which prevented the process from being completed?
- Are there any concerns to highlight?
- Was the candidate known to panel members?
- How did you make sure that the panel made judgements solely based on the candidates’ applications and what they saw and heard throughout the process?
- What makes this candidate the right one for our school?
- This may include reference to your school's strategic view, and why this candidate is the one to take your school forward
Vote to accept or reject the candidate
While the vote on the candidate is done by majority, individuals can vote against the candidate.
- It's good practice for the chair to allow governors to raise concerns at the meeting
- A governor may wish to give an explanation, but they don't need to justify their vote
The board would usually vote to endorse the selection panel's choice, but sometimes it might reject a candidate. Reasons for this could be:
- If there's been a considerable move away from the board's process, the board may decide it's not comfortable with the appointment. This should be rare, as the board appoints the panel and its members are trusted to run a robust process
- If the board feels there's been inappropriate bias
Notifying the successful candidate
The chair of governors should make an offer once the board has ratified the selection panel's decision. This should be a conditional offer, subject to the necessary checks. Note: in a multi-academy trust, it might be the CEO who makes the offer.
Don't forget to notify unsuccessful candidates of the outcome of their application, and provide them with feedback, too.
Although the verbal offer and acceptance are binding in law, they're followed by a written offer and a formal contract of employment. This is done by the employer, which depends on the type of school:
- If your school is a community, voluntary-controlled or community special school, the local authority is the employer. You'll need to notify them of the ratified decision so that they can appoint the successful candidate
- If your school is a foundation, voluntary-aided or foundation special school, the governing board is the employer, and the chair of governors will usually make the appointment
- If your school is an academy, the academy trust makes the appointment
This is explained on page 29 of the Department for Education's guidance on recruiting a headteacher.