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Parent governors: role

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Last updated on 2 November 2017
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What is the role of a parent governor? We look at advice from local authorities and one of our associate education experts on the parent governor's role and the rules on conflicts of interest. There are also some top tips for parent governors.

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Contents

  1. 1 How to be an effective parent governor  
  2. 2 Giving value to the parental viewpoint
  3. 3 Parent governors and conflicts of interest
  4. 4 Parent governors who work at the school
  5. 5 Raising concerns as a parent, rather than a parent governor 

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  • 5 external links

How to be an effective parent governor  

Below we relay guidance from Vicky Redding, one of our associate education experts who is a governance trainer and consultant. We also refer to guidance documents on the role of a parent governor from Central Bedfordshire Council and Luton Borough Council.

The guidance from Central Bedfordshire Council is for governing bodies constituted under the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012, which apply to maintained schools. However, academy governors may still find it useful.

Defining 'representative'

Vicky said that a parent governor is a representative of the parent perspective in general. The role of the parent governor is not to be a spokesperson for the particular views of parents.

Luton Borough Council's document says that parent governors provide a "parental viewpoint", though they are "representative parents rather than representatives of parents".

Aspects of the role

Parent governors provide a "parental viewpoint" ...

Central Bedfordshire Council's guidance says on page 6 that a parent governor should:

  • Help to decide the priorities for improving the school
  • Work in partnership with the headteacher, senior leadership team and co-operatively with other governors to raise standards and improve outcomes for all children
  • Prepare for meetings by reading papers beforehand

Luton Borough Council's document says that to fulfil the role effectively, parent governors should:

  • Try to attend INSET sessions
  • Guide parents about appropriate lines of action and procedures
  • Present a balanced view of issues, representing different sections of the community
Gov article answers

New parent governors 

If you are a new parent governor, you might like to take a look at our new governor essentials bundle, where we have selected a range of articles as a starting point.

Relating to parents

The Central Bedfordshire Council guidance says on page 6 that parent governors should have a rapport with the parental body that elected them, while maintaining a strategic approach to school governance.

Luton Borough Council's document says they should not become personally involved in any individual concerns, as this may jeopardise complaint and appeal procedures.

Vicky explained that parent governors may pick up on more parent-related issues because they are also in the position of being a parent.

However, setting up a formal channel between parents and the parent governor would be a misinterpretation of the role of parent governor. This would bypass the role of teachers and headteachers in flagging more operational issues. 

Clarifying the role with parents

Explain that the whole governing board is interested in parents’ concerns, not just the parent governors

A member asked how to explain the role of a parent governor to a parent who has requested a method of direct contact with parent governors, such as a dedicated email address or letterbox. The parent concerned sees parent governors as their direct representative.

Vicky suggested communicating with the parent to clarify the role of parent governor, and to explain the methods in place for parents to raise their concerns with the school. She suggested a discussion where you:

  • Explain that the whole governing board is interested in parents’ concerns, not just the parent governors
  • Be clear that the mechanisms in place for parents to communicate issues are generally through the class teacher and/or headteacher first, who can handle operational questions. Parents may also communicate issues through parent class representatives
  • Explain that setting up a formal channel between parents and the parent governor could cut out the class teacher and/or headteacher's roles in resolving issues. The headteacher may decide to refer the issue on to the governing board, though this will depend on your school's own procedures
  • Highlight the ways in which the governing board collects parents’ views at your school, such as through surveys or parent forums, or governors being present at events
  • Show the ways in which the governing board communicates with parents about what it is discussing, such as through newsletters or publicising minutes. This demonstrates that the governing board is open with parents about its strategic focus

Top tips for parent governors

Expert comment icon

One of our associate education experts, Jackie Beard, gives some top tips for parent governors.

  • Keep the parental perspective in mind. Approach every issue with the question “What do I as a parent think about this? What would other parents think about this?”
  • Get it in writing. If another parent approaches you with a grievance, ask them to put it in writing. This is the correct procedure, and helps to separate genuine complaints from the customary grumbles.
  • Take a step back. If you have an issue concerning your child, ask his/her other parent to lead the discussion with the school. If this isn’t possible, remember that you are acting as a parent only – leave your governor hat at home!

Giving value to the parental viewpoint

A parent governor contacted us to ask what to do when it seems that the chair and headteacher are not taking the parental viewpoint into account. 

We contacted our associate education expert Vicky Redding for advice. 

Acknowledge the parental view

Vicky explained that the whole governing board has a responsibility to acknowledge the parental view and should make sure that mechanisms for parental engagement are in place. 

At the same time, she explained that parents do not need to be consulted about everything. 

Establish clear expectations

Vicky said that the governing board and headteacher should establish clear expectations to make sure that everyone understands their respective roles.

The headteacher should be allowed to exercise their professional judgement, while the governing board should hold them to account through robust challenge and questioning. Vicky said that it was perfectly reasonable for governors to ask headteachers to justify their choices, including parent governors acting as a representative of the parental perspective.

Parent governors, like other members of the governing board, should also be aware that their role is strategic rather than operational.

How to raise concerns

If a parent governor still feels that they are being undervalued, Vicky suggested that they should raise their concerns with the chair. If they are not able to resolve the issue at this level, the vice chair should be the next point of contact.

Challenging the relationship between the head and the chair

In another article we relay advice on how to challenge the working relationship between a chair and a headteacher who do not recognise the contributions of the other members of the governing board.

Our experts suggest a variety of solutions, including:

  • Speaking informally to the chair or vice-chair
  • Scheduling an agenda item to consider the way information is shared 
  • Arranging a governing board self-evaluation session  

Parent governors and conflicts of interest

Are parent governors restricted from being on certain committees?

The School Governance (Roles, Procedures and Allowances) (England) Regulations 2013 do not restrict parent governors from being a member of any committee.

These regulations apply to maintained schools. Governors in academies should check their articles of association. The Department for Education (DfE)'s model articles also do not restrict parent governors from any committees.

You can download the latest version of the model articles of association from the page linked to below:

Should parent governors declare an interest in agenda items that might affect their children?

We were asked whether a parent governor should declare an interest in an agenda item which would affect their child, such as a curriculum re-organisation.

We asked Keith Clover, one of our associate education experts and a National Leader of Governance (NLG), for his advice.

Keith said that parent governors do not need to declare a personal interest in all agenda items that could have an impact on their child.

Where there is a dispute about whether the governor should withdraw, the other governors may make this decision

They should declare an interest and consider withdrawing from a discussion and/or vote when:

  • A parent governor’s child is individually implicated in a matter, or
  • The parent governor's ability to act impartiality on an issue is clearly in doubt

Where there is a dispute about whether the governor should withdraw, the other governors may make this decision.

However, he said the fact that a parent governor's child may be connected to an issue being discussed should not immediately be regarded as a conflict of interest, and parent governors should be given the opportunity to provide a parental viewpoint in the best interests of the school.

Similar advice is provided on page 6 of Central Bedfordshire Council's guidance on the role of the parent governor (see above), which says parent governors should:

... declare an interest and withdraw ... where you are so close to a matter discussed it is difficult to be impartial.

You can find more information on disclosing conflicts of interest in another article from The Key. 

Parent governors who work at the school

Restrictions on the number of hours parent governors can work

A member asked us whether there are restrictions on how many hours parent governors can work at the school where they are a governor.

For maintained schools, a person is disqualified from being a parent governor if he/she is paid to work at the school for more than 500 hours in any consecutive 12-month period (at the time of election or appointment).

This is set out on page 20 of the guidance for the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2012.

For academies, a trustee may be employed by the academy trust or enter into a contract for the supply of goods or services to the academy trust, other than for acting as a trustee.

This is explained in article 6.7 of the DfE's model articles of association for academies, linked to in section 2 above.

The articles do not specify a maximum number of hours for this work.

Raising concerns as a parent, rather than a parent governor 

In another article, we explain that parent governors may want to raise a concern with the school in their capacity as stakeholders, rather than governors. In this case, we explain that the parent governor should follow their school's complaints procedure. 

A further article relays advice on separating the role of governor from the role of parent. The article includes specific advice on how a parent governor can raise concerns about their child without compromising their role on the governing board. 

Sources and further reading

Vicky Redding is a governance trainer and consultant. She provides training, advice and support on effective school governance.

Jackie Beard is a national leader of governance (NLG), advising governing bodies in all aspects of their role. She also sits on an independent appeal panel for exclusions and admissions for a local authority.

Keith Clover is an NLG. He chairs an interim executive board and is an academy consultant for a diocese.

This article was updated in response to a question from the headteacher of a medium-size primary school in London.

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