Governor wellbeing matters
Common stressors for governors include:
- Heavy workloads
- Feelings of incompetence or lack of purpose
- Time constraints
- Competing responsibilities
And just as in any other workplace, poor mental health and wellbeing can lead to:
- Reduced productivity
- Increased absence from meetings
- Social difficulties
While it's no single person's responsibility to maintain the mental health and wellbeing of the governors on your board, there are some tweaks that you as a chair, clerk or any other board member can make to ensure that governance isn't overly burdensome.
Prioritise induction and training
If a board is to run efficiently, every governor must be confident in their role. This is the case for both new governors and more experienced ones who are tackling new responsibilities.
New governor induction and further training for experienced governors can protect your governors' wellbeing by:
- Helping governors feel confident in their roles
- Making sure each governor is doing the best they can
- Keeping the workload evenly balanced
As a board, you should:
- Have a governor induction policy
- Appoint a link governor for induction and training
- Create a governor/trustee pack
- Keep a record of governor training
Use our training courses and learning pathways to improve your board's confidence and knowledge. Our courses cover a variety of subjects such as induction, link governors and finance, and you'll receive a certificate on completion, which will appear automatically in GovernorHub.
Sharing the workload equitably amongst your board will:
- Have a positive impact on wellbeing
- Improve the efficiency of the board as a whole
It’s common for some members of the board to complete the majority of the work as they have more experience or time, but you may find:
- Governors carrying heavier workloads do so out of duty and would rather do less
- Less active governors may want to do more, but feel less confident about asking to take on more work or feel unable to do as good a job as others (this is where the training mentioned above is handy)
A good way to delegate effectively and manage workload is to set up committees within your board. Understand the types of committee and the rules on their constitution to make them work for you.
The most common committees are finance, pay and curriculum, but you can choose what will work best based on the size and capacity of your board.
As a board, review your committees and link governor roles at least annually to make sure all governors have clarity on what they bring to the board.
Your school runs on schedules, and so should your board. Schedules help everyone plan ahead and mentally prepare for the work that's coming up.
Every governor should have a clear view of what's happening and when. Make sure your board has published:
- The school calendar
- A schedule of full board and committee meetings
- A schedule for governor school visits
- The policy review schedule
Make sure these are readily available to governors at all times, either on your school's website or through a portal such as GovernorHub.
Keep meetings focused and on track
Governors are busy people and don't like to waste time in meetings. From meetings that lack focus to those that go off the rails and last several hours, poor meeting management can negatively impact both governor wellbeing and the efficient running of your board.
Everyone has a role to play in ensuring that board and committee meetings run smoothly:
School leaders can...
- Set the agenda with the chair and clerk at least 2 weeks before the meeting, and make it laser-focused on what matters right now
- Make sure reports only provide the information governors need. By avoiding lengthy reports you cut down workload for both your governors and school leaders
- Resist the urge to recycle the same lengthy report term after term. This creates unnecessary work for school leaders and overloads governors with more information than may be needed
The chair can...
- Meet with the school leader and the clerk to set the agenda - get together to discuss what needs to go on the agenda and why. Make sure the agenda is laser-focused on the things that matter right now. This can be a part of your regular meetings with the headteacher
- Understand what each agenda item is for and why it's there - then make sure your governors do, too. Use the agenda and memorandum template below to clearly signpost to your governors:
- What's on the agenda
- How long each agenda item will take
- What actions need to be taken
- What governors need to read to prepare and key points within those documents for consideration
- What decisions governors will need to make
- Prep your opening remarks ahead of time - and keep them short
- Ask governors to submit their questions ahead of the meeting - school leaders will then know what will be asked of them and can be properly prepared for the meeting. This will also encourage your less confident governors to participate. Make sure to include each question in the minutes
- Be early - this is especially true for virtual meetings, where you might need to handle technical challenges. And to that end:
- Bring your clerk in with you - they need time to set up, whether in the real or virtual world. Your clerk can also help you manage any technological or housekeeping matters, such as missing documents or last-minute apologies
- Stick to the agenda - keep to time and manage your governors when they go off-topic. Remember that the focus here is the wellbeing of all your governors
- Take a break - schedule a 10-minute break at the halfway point. This will help maintain governor focus for the latter half of the meeting
For more on chairing effective meetings, read this article.
The clerk can...
- Invite governors to propose agenda items - using whatever procedure is set out in the board's code of conduct. If there's no procedure, email the governors to remind them of the upcoming meeting and invite them to propose agenda items within a set timescale (e.g. 3 days). Do this about 3 weeks before the meeting and submit them to the chair for consideration before the next step
- Prepare a draft agenda - use the agenda and memorandum template below to help you get everyone focused on the work at hand
- Meet with the chair and the school leader to set the agenda - get together to discuss what needs to go on the agenda and why. Doing this at least 2 weeks before the meeting will do more than save time at the meeting - it'll cut down on prep work too
- Finalise the agenda - and circulate it, along with any necessary documents, to all the governors at least '7 clear days' before the meeting
- Be early - to get set up (virtually or in the real world) and to help your chair with any technological or housekeeping matters, like missing documents or last-minute apologies
For more on producing the agenda, read this article.
All governors can...
- Propose agenda items before the meeting - your clerk should ask for these ahead of the meeting. If they don't, be proactive and submit agenda items directly to your clerk for consideration
- Set aside the time you need to read the agenda and necessary documents - be respectful of your colleagues' time and efforts by being prepared
- Submit any questions to the chair before the meeting - meetings aren't about catching people out. If school leaders know what will be asked of them ahead of time, they can be adequately prepared for the meeting
- Ignore spelling and grammar mistakes - no one's perfect, so unless the error makes a significant difference (like £3000 instead of £30.00), just let it go
- Prepare your reports early and submit them to the clerk - if you have any reporting duties, be sure to get those reports to the clerk in time for them to be circulated with the agenda
- Be on time - or early, if you'd like to socialise
- Stay focused on the agenda items - and note the time allowed for each item. Resist the urge to share personal anecdotes or otherwise go off-topic
For more on preparing for a board meeting, read this article.
Download our template agenda and memorandum
Use it to help your board prepare for and manage meetings more efficiently:
To avoid doing unnecessary things just because they've always been there, get into the habit of reflecting as a board on what you do and the impact it has on governors' workloads. Using the KISS model, ask:
- Keep – what's working well for our workloads?
- Improve – what workload issues do we have and how could we improve them?
- Stop – what can be stopped permanently or in the short term to minimise workloads?
- Start – what can we start doing to improve our workloads?
Say thank you
It's the simplest things that often get forgotten. Thank other governors for the work they do and the energy they put into the school.
Remember, your governors are volunteers. They've made sacrifices to sit on your board. A simple 'thanks for your work' is often all that's needed to make governors feel appreciated and keep them motivated.