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Reviewing the chair of governors' performance
It’s crucial for the chair to reflect on their performance at least once per year. Pick the most appropriate way of doing this for your board, and download the resources you need to run the process.
Decide what system you want to use
There are a variety of ways you can review the chair of governors' performance. In an ideal world, your board should have an established system where you do this every year. If you don't:
- Add it an agenda item at your summer term meeting (give the chair a heads up first, otherwise this might ruffle some feathers)
- At the meeting, discuss the main areas you think a performance review process should cover. It's a good idea to have your whole board feed in and say what they think the priorities are. Your starting points are:
- What are our board's key strategic priorities?
- Are there any upcoming changes that the chair will need to navigate? (e.g. a funding deficit, or expanding your MAT)
- What needs to be in place for our chair to have the biggest impact on our board, and help us achieve our goals?
The summer term is the best time to hold a review. This is usually when boards review their performance over the past year anyway, so these two activities tie in nicely. It also means you can put changes in place from the new academic year, when you might also be reviewing your committee structures, scheme of delegation, or roles and responsibilities on the board.
Create a questionnaire and hold a 360° review
One way you can run a review for your chair is to write a questionnaire and ask governors to fill it in.
Use our questionnaire as a starting point - the questions we've included are general points about good chairing but your chair might be good at all these things. Edit it collectively to reflect your board's context and priorities.
You could get all governors or smaller group to fill it in. You could also include senior leaders if the chair has worked closely with any of them in particular.
Ruth Agnew, a national leader of governance, helped us develop the template.
Other potential formats
You could use survey software to run a questionnaire instead of using a template or email. Dedicated survey software can streamline the process of collecting feedback. Some free examples are:
With both, you need to create an account. Then, you can create your survey and simply send an email link to your governors. The tools present the results in a clear, simple way too, which will save your appraiser some work compiling all the feedback.
Relay feedback afterwards
The appraiser should collate the feedback and share it with the chair. It's a good idea to meet with the chair face-to-face to do this, so the chair has a chance to ask questions and respond.
Hold 1-1 interviews
Instead of filling out a survey, you could hold face-to-face interviews instead.
This is a good option if you want a less formal process - or if you have new governors or a new chair and don't want to potentially overwhelm them.
The nominated governor or clerk could interview all governors individually for 10-15 minutes. If your board is able, you could get an external person to facilitate these conversations
Structure the conversation around 2 key points - this will keep the conversation concise and provide a realistic level of feedback for the chair to work on:
- What 2 things does the chair do really well?
- What are the 2 things the chair could do to improve the performance of the board?
Rate the chair against competencies
The chair of governors at Collingwood College in Surrey explained the 360° review process he'd been through.
He rated himself against 16 leadership competencies:
Leading in the community
He chose people to provide anonymous ratings on his performance against each of the leadership competencies. He chose people had known him for different periods of time when choosing those who would rate him. These were:
- 4 governors, including the vice chair and committee chairs
- School business manager
- Clerk to the governors
He compared the ratings he'd given himself against those given by other people.
Make it work yourself
We've created a downloadable template so you can make this approach work for you too:
Discuss as part of the board's performance as a whole
You don't have to do a standalone process for the chair alone. If you prefer, you could address this as part of a wider discussion about your whole board's performance.
This might be a good approach to start with if your board or chair doesn't have an established review process.
Address the chair’s performance as part of a wider discussion about the skills on the board
Link to content on skills audits and self-evaluation info
Expert advice on making the process chair-specific and doing it well
Address the chair’s performance as part of a wider discussion about the board’s performance against the school’s strategy
Link to content on this - 20 key questions piece? Is this still live? Do we have anything similar?
Expert advice on bringing the chair’s performance into this and doing it well
Murray Steele, a corporate governance expert, pointed out that 360° reviews of the chair remain relatively rare on British boards, particularly in the voluntary and school sector.
If you want to introduce the reviews, you should make sure that candidates for the position of chair are aware that they will be expected to go through this process before they stand.
However, you should make sure you carry out some form of evaluation of the chair at least annually, even if it is more informal than a full 360° review.
- Arrange for the chair to have one-to-ones with all governors at least annually, to discuss any ideas or issues that have arisen
- Meet without the chair and headteacher to discuss and evaluate the leadership of the governing body
Run appraisal for the whole board
As part of an appraisal process for the full governing board, where everyone gets something like this
Link to other content on governor appraisal https://schoolgovernors.thekeysupport.com/the-governing-body/recruitment-and-competence/governor-skills-and-effectiveness/governor-appraisal/ (needs a TOV review)
Next steps: leadership development plan
At the end of the appraisal process, chairs can use our Keydoc to set out their next steps for improving their leadership skills. The download helps them to set goals and evaluate their progress.
We worked with Keith Clover, another of our experts, to create this.
Ray Harris is a national leader of governance, and has previously worked as a school improvement officer.
Jane Edminson is a national leader of governance and a governor support officer for a local authority.
Keith Clover is a national leader of governance. He chairs two governing bodies within a multi-academy trust and is an academy consultant for a diocese.
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