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When and how to reconstitute the governing board of a maintained school
Find out when it's appropriate to reconstitute your governing board and how to go about it.
Our thanks to Jane Edminson, our associate governance expert, for her assistance with this article.
What is reconstitution and when should you do it?
'Reconstitution' is the act of reorganising the governing board.
You might have to do it if you need to reconsider your leadership structure as a result of internal or external changes, e.g. if:
- You decide to make a proactive move to ensure the governing board is fit for purpose in the future - like if you're converting to academy status or gaining or removing a foundation
- Things aren't going well - like you've had a poor Ofsted inspection or the board as a whole doesn't work well together
- It's recommended by an external review of governance
This is laid out in statutory guidance (page 7).
What's the process?
Before you get started, check if your local authority (LA) publishes reconstitution guidance - otherwise, follow our guidelines below.
1. Decide what board structure is fit for purpose
Start with the minimum requirements for the constitution of your governing board - see the first section of this article to be clear on the requirements for maintained schools.
From there, you need to work out how you want to structure your governing board and the number of governors you'll actually need to fill out that structure.
Learn more about the different governing board committee structures and their pros and cons.
2. Determine what skills you need in your new structure
Starting with a blank sheet of paper, create a governance 'dream team'. If you don't know where to start, you can refer to the Department for Education's (DfE's) competency framework for governance.
Tip: don't think about the skills you already have. For this exercise, imagine you're building a governing board from scratch.
3. Draft a provisional instrument of government
Use our model instrument of government and checklist to help you stay organised when you review and draft it here.
Once you have a draft, changes made to your current instrument must be recorded in the minutes of your governing board meeting and the proposed instrument must be approved by the full governing board.
When it's approved, submit it to the relevant body:
- The local authority if you're a community school
- The diocese or relevant religious authority if you're a foundation school
4. Set a date for reconstitution
The length of time you'll need to prepare for reconstitution will depend on factors like:
- How much you're changing compared to your current board constitution
- The number of governors you'll need to recruit and how long you'll need to recruit them
Note: changing the constitution of your governing board is a big step, so don't rush it. The more drastic the change, the more time you'll need to get it right. It can take up to 6 months, so make sure you've invested enough time.
5. Complete a skills audit to determine what skills you already have
You'll need to do this for the whole board. Use our governing board self-evaluation in 3 steps.
6. Manage surplus governors
Once you've figured out what you need and measured what you have, you might have surplus governors. This will be either due to:
- Reducing the size of the governing board overall
- Discovering you have redundant skills as a result of the audit
If governors don't volunteer to resign, the DfE advises you conduct "sensitive and honest negotiation about which governors are best placed to contribute to effective governance and the success of the school" (see page 19 here).
If you still have surplus governors after these negotiations, the DfE advises:
- In the case of foundation governors, those responsible for appointing them should decide which foundation governors are best placed to contribute to the success of the school
- For all other governors, there should be a separate vote of the full governing board on each category where there's a surplus and:
- The vote must be specified on the agenda at least 7 days before the meeting
- Governors must not vote in their own categories
- The chair has the casting vote in the event of the tie
- Governors who are made surplus will continue to hold their seat until votes are taken in all categories
7. Elect a new chair and vice chair
After reconstitution, you'll need to hold an election for chair and vice-chair of governors.
Terms of office following reconstitution
Those governors who remain in the same role they held before reconstitution (e.g. if they were a staff governor and remain a staff governor) will continue to serve out their original term of office.
Those governors appointed to a different category (e.g. if they were a staff governor and have become a co-opted governor) begin a new term of office.
This was confirmed by a representative of the DfE.
Jane Edminson is a national leader of governance and a governor support officer for a local authority.
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