Governor categories in maintained schools

The governing boards of maintained schools must be made up of specific types of governors. Understand what all of the different categories of governors are and the roles they play in school governance.

Last reviewed on 10 August 2022
School types: Maintained, Special · School phases: All
Ref: 4129
  1. The headteacher
  2. Parent governors
  3. Staff governors
  4. Local authority governors
  5. Co-opted governors
  6. Foundation governors
  7. Partnership schools

If you're looking for information on the constitution of the governing board, see this article

The information below is based on the Department for Education's (DfE)'s statutory guidance on the constitution of governing boards in maintained schools, and its guide to structures and roles for maintained school governance.

The headteacher

The headteacher is automatically a governor because of their position as headteacher – sometimes referred to as an 'ex-officio' governor. Headteachers can resign from the governing board if they choose, but the role can't be filled by any other staff member.

The exception is an acting headteacher, but they have to be appointed to substantively carry out the role of headteacher, according to a representative at the DfE. A part-time acting headteacher doesn't qualify.

Their role

To implement the governing board's strategy in practice, and provide information to the governing board as requested. They'll report to the board at full governing board meetings or committee meetings. 

Read more about the headteacher's role on the board.

Parent governors

Parent governors are elected by other parents in the school.

All parents or carers of registered pupils at the school are eligible to stand in a parent governor election. Once elected, parent governors may continue to hold office until the end of their term of office, even if their child leaves the school (see page 14 of the constitution of governing bodies of maintained schools). 

The DfE defines parents as:

  • All natural (biological) parents, whether they are married or not
  • Any person who, although not a biological parent, has parental responsibility for a child or young person (this could be a step-parent, guardian or other relative)
  • Any person who, although not a biological parent, has care of a child or young person. This means they are the person with whom the child lives and who looks after the child, irrespective of what their relationship is with the child

Grandparents would only be eligible to be parent governors if they care for the child on a full-time, settled basis or if they are the legal guardian of the child. 

Their role

A parent governor's role is the same as other governors on the board, but they provide a 'parental perspective'. They're not there as a parent representative nor as an advocate for their own child. To learn more about how parent governors balance their roles as governor and parent, read this article.

Staff governors

Staff governors are elected by other staff members.

All staff who are employed to work at the school at the time of election are eligible to stand for staff governor elections. This includes teaching staff, support staff, senior leaders and part-time staff.

Staff governors should be elected for the skills they can bring to the governing board, rather than their position within the school.

Their role

Staff governors have the same role as other governors on the board, but they bring a unique staff perspective to the governing board. They don't represent the staff, and are not there to be held to account by the board. Read this article for more on this role.

Local authority governors

Local authority (LA) governors are nominated by the LA. LAs set their own eligibility criteria.

The governing board can either accept or reject the nomination based on whether the nominee has the skills required to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school.

If the board rejects a nominee, they must explain the reason for doing so to the LA.

Their role

The LA governor has the same role as other governors on the board, but they provide an 'LA viewpoint'. They're a representative of the local authority, but they're not a political appointee. The governance handbook (page 64) states that:

LA governors must govern in the interests of the school and not represent or advocate for the political or other interests of the LA; it is unacceptable practice to link the right to nominate LA governors to the local balance of political power.

This is all set out on page 64 of the governance handbook. Find out more about local authority governors.

Co-opted governors

Co-opted governors are appointed by the governing board.

Anyone is eligible to become a co-opted governor and governing boards are free to decide which skills they're looking for. This can include parents.

Staff members can also be appointed as co-opted governors, but the number of staff members on the governing board must not be more than 1/3 of the total membership of the governing board (when counted with the staff governor and the headteacher). 

For example, if you have 12 governors, you can't appoint more than 2 staff members as co-opted governors. 

Their role

Co-opted governors are appointed by the governing board if it believes they have the skills to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school. They'll often have specialised knowledge in subjects like:

  • Management
  • HR
  • Finance
  • Data
  • Law
  • Education

You can read more about the role of co-opted governors in this article.

Foundation governors

Foundation governors are found in voluntary aided schools, voluntary controlled schools, and foundation schools with a foundation

There aren't any restrictions on who can be a foundation governor. It's up to the appointing body to decide who to appoint. This is usually the school's founding body, church or other organisation named in the school's instrument of government. 

There are 2 types of foundation governors:

  • Appointed – the appointing body selects them for the governing board
  • Ex officio – they take the role by virtue of their office, e.g. clergy members

Their role

Whether appointed or ex-officio, their role is the same. Foundation governors are appointed to make sure that the:

  • School's character (including religious character if it has one) is preserved and developed, and
  • School is conducted in accordance with the school's trust deed (or the foundation's governing documents, where the school has a foundation)

This is also explained on page 63 of the governance handbook.

However, the handbook warns that foundation schools still need to understand the diversity within the communities they serve. The board should be alert to the risk of being dominated by one particular mindset, be it faith or something else (page 20).

Partnership schools

Partnership governors are similar to foundation governors, but they're only required in foundation schools without a foundation.

The governing body must first try to appoint partnership governors from those nominated by:

  • The "appropriate diocesan authority" in the case of a Church of England or Roman Catholic school
  • The "appropriate religious body" in any other case
  • The parents of registered pupils at the school and "such others in the community served by the school as they consider appropriate" where the school doesn't have a religious character 

Like LA governors, the board still has discretion in whether to appoint nominees. The decision should be based on whether they have the skills needed to contribute to the effective governance and success of the school.

Their role

They act in the best interests of the foundation school and wider community.

Where the school has a religious character, they also have a role in preserving and developing the religious character.


Please rate this article

Can't find what you need? Try searching or ask us a question.