This page offers advice to clergy who become governors because of their church office.
The responsibilities of an ex-officio governor
The responsibilities of any school governor are laid out in some detail on the DFE website but in essence governors hold an overview of the life and work of the school. Governors also have a duty to promote high standards for the pupils: ‘To do the best you can, with the resources available, for the benefits of the pupils in the school.’
Governors do not get involved in the day to day running of the school, which is the role of the Headteacher, but fulfil a strategic role, become a critical friend and provide accountability.
Governors have no individual power as all responsibilities and decisions are shared collectively.
The governors are a corporate body.
Additional responsibilities of foundation governors
All foundation governors are responsible for preserving and developing the church foundation of the school. They act as a link between the school and the Parochial Church Council (PCC), encouraging working together for the benefit of the school, the parish and the local community but otherwise their duties are no more than those of other governors.
The time commitment required as a governor
All governing bodies are legally required to hold at least 3 meetings per school year, but many now meet 6 times. Governors usually become members of committees, which will involve attendance at extra meetings.
On top of this is the time for reading and considering paperwork, visiting the school in line with the visiting framework of your governing body and attending training sessions.
A clergyperson is not expected to put in any more time than other governors, as a governor. However the school will undoubtedly have other expectations of a clergy member (eg in connection with RE, collective worship and pastoral matters), which you will need to discuss with the Headteacher.
Becoming the Chair of Governors
The Diocesan Board of Education recommends that the clergy member is not the Chair of Governors as this role can conflict with the pastoral role that a clergy member usually takes.
If a clergy member is elected chair, as Chair s/he has no more responsibilities or powers than other governors. However the smooth running of the governing body falls largely on the shoulders of the chair.
The chair needs to develop a good working relationship with the headteacher. This will almost certainly require additional meetings with the head, for discussion and the signing of documents.
The responsibility for appointing foundation governors
The school’s Instrument of Government shows who is responsible for appointing foundation governors.
The Diocesan Board of Education appoints Foundation Governors in all schools and in most schools the PCC also appoints governors. Often the DBE will ask the local incumbent to suggest suitable people to be nominated by them.
All nominees, whether new or continuing, must complete and submit a foundation governor application form, which will be sent from the DBE office.
If for any reason a clergyperson is unable or unwilling to take up an ex-officio governorship, it is the responsibility of the archdeacon to appoint a replacement or substitute ex-officio foundation governor at a school. This situation needs to be bought to the Archdeacon's attention, via the Diocesan Director of Education. It is acceptable for the clergy member or the school to suggest a suitable person who is willing to fulfil this role to the Diocesan Director of Education.
The Archdeacon also has the power to remove an ex-officio foundation governor should the need arise.
The relationship with the headteacher
Key to having a successful church school is developing a good relationship with the Headteacher and indeed all who work in the school. The nature of the relationship will depend on the role as governor, Clergy member, Chair, or maybe a combination of all 3.
Responsibility for RE lessons and Collective Worship
A clergyperson cannot tell the school how to conduct RE lessons and collective worship, as this is to do with the day-to-day running of the school. However, any foundation governor will be able to influence the school's ‘distinctiveness’ in these areas by taking a keen interest in policies, and in as a clergy member by offering to take part. The use of the SIAS toolkit as a monitoring tool for these areas will help develop their Christian distinctiveness.
Financial implication of the church to the school
Contributions are always welcomed, especially to support collective worship, for Christian materials or other areas.
Governors of aided schools obtain their funding from a number of sources to pay the contributions for building work. These include PCC contributions, trust funds, income from the hire of the school premises, PTA contributions, and of course fund raising.
Being a trustee for the school
An incumbent is often a trustee of the school. Trustees and governors have separate roles and responsibilities. The trustees as a body meet infrequently usually to consider a request, from governors or LA, to extend or modify the school buildings. The trustees would usually support any request to improve facilities but could request modifications to the design of a project, or proposed building materials, if they consider the proposals to be detrimental or inappropriate to their building. Although trustees could refuse proposals by the governors or the LA, they would do so with great caution and always endeavour to find a compromise. Governors and the LA often forget that trustees’ permission must be obtained prior to any building works being undertaken. As a foundation governor, the clergy member is able to be pro-active to prevent this problem occurring.
When a school closes or transfers to a replacement site the trustees have to determine the future of the premises in accordance with legislation and guidance from the DfE and Charity Commission. DBE Officers always support this work and trustees must consult the DBE over such proposals. Further information can be found by clicking here.
The trustees’ approval is required before a school can apply for academy status.
Support from the DBE
DBE officers are available to help and support. This is provided by telephone, by visits to attend governors’ meetings and by training sessions, both centrally and at your own school. The Assistant Director of Education has a particular responsibility to support and train foundation governors.
The Schools Assets Officer is available to help and support trustees in their responsibilities.