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Last updated on 4 February 2020
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School types: Maintained, Special · School phases: All

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.

If you're looking for information on the constitution of the governing board, you can find that in 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

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 their position on 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

Their role is to provide information to the governing board as requested. A governing board or committee meeting is the primary forum where the headteacher reports to the board. 

You can 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

The DfE defines parents as:

  • All natural (biological) parents, whether they are married or not
  • Any person who, although not a natural 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 natural 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 provides a parent's views to the governing board, but isn't 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 election as the staff governor. 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 bring a unique staff perspective to the governing board, but they don't represent the staff. They're also not there to be held to account by the board. Read this article for more on this important role.

Local authority governors 

Local authority (LA) governors are nominated by the LA. LAs set their own eligibility criteria, but the governing board can either accept or reject that nomination based on whether they have 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 (page 53).

Their role

The LA governor serves as the link between the LA and the school but isn't a political appointee. The governance handbook 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 local authority; it is unacceptable practice to link the right to nominate local authority governors to the local balance of political power.

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 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 have more than 2 staff members appointed as co-opted governors. 

Their role

Co-opted governors are appointed by the governing board if it believes they have the skills required 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 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 diocese, the school's founding body, or a trust. 

There are 2 types of foundation governors:

  • Appointed – the appointing body selects them for the governing board
  • Ex officio – they're appointed 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 specifically to "preserve and develop the character of the organisation, including any religious character", according to the governance handbook (pages 14-15).

They're also responsible for making sure the school operates as required by the foundation’s governing documents, including the trust deed where appropriate.

However, the handbook warns that foundation schools still need to understand the diversity within the communities they serve, so the board should be awake to the risk of being dominated by one particular mindset, be it faith or something else (pages 15-16).

Partnership governors

Partnership governors are similar to foundation governors, but they're 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.

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