Governing Body - guidance
The key role of the Board of Governors, is to:
- set strategy
- set the college's values and culture
- scrutinise management's performance
- provide entrepreneurial leadership
- ensure sufficient personnel and financial resources are available to met objectives and ensure the long-term sustainability of the college
- ensure engagement with all stakeholders
Further information and links are available here Roles and Responsibilities of the Governing Body
Details on governors' liability can be found on the Statutory Framework page.
Chair of Governors - guidance, role description, and competency framework
The chairman leads the board, sets its agenda (in conjunction with the Principal/CEO and the Governance Professional, and ensures it is an effective part of the leadership of the college. He/she will promote a culture of openness and debate must ensure that all board members receive accurate, timely and clear information.
Further information and templates are available here Chair of Governors Role
Vice-Chair of Governors - guidance and role description
In addition to the expected responsibility of stepping into the Chair's role during any period of absence, the Vice-Chair should play a key role of supporter to the Chair. Chairs often state that the role can be an isolated one and therefore to have someone who can act as a trusted sounding board and extra pair of ears and eyes, both inside and outside the boardroom, can be of great assistance.
Further information and templates are available here Vice-Chair of Governors Role
Committee Chair - guidance and role description
In order to effectively lead a committee, the committee chair must have a good understanding of the responsibilities of the committee, and its role within the organisation; have relevant experience and skills in the area of the committee's work; and the necessary time to commit to the role. Setting the agendas; expectations for members; and ensuring adequate reporting up and down the chain of communication within the governance structure, are key responsibilities,
Further information and templates are available here Committee Chair Role
Senior Independent Governor (SIG) - guidance and role description
What is a SIG and do you need one? The SIG role is different from that of a Vice Chair role – they are clearly defined, separate roles with different functions. The benefit of a SIG is that they are independent - they are not the next Chair-in-waiting and do not cover for the Chair in his/her absence. Having a SIG is another mechanism to reduce risk and raise the likelihood of effective governance within the organisation.
Further information and template is available to download below
Governors - guidance, role description, and competency framework
Governors are at the heart of college leadership. It's important they understand where they fit into the organisation and what their role and responsibilities are. How they carry out their role effects outcomes for students, staff and the reputation of the college in the community.
Further information and templates are available here Governor Role
Staff Governor - guidance and role description
The role of staff governor should not be any different to that of any other governor. As the role requires the governor to possibly hold their line manager to account, it is essential that objectivity is always maintained. Enthusiasm for the role, rather than any specific skills or knowledge is key. The staff governor does not deal with specific staffing issues and is not there as a representative for staff matters.
Further information and templates are available here Staff Governor Role
Student Governor - guidance and job description
Student Governors are highly valued - as first-hand users of the College, they play a crucial role through inputting their views on important decisions being made, and the college's strategic direction.
Further information and templates are available here Student Governor Role
Co-opted Governor - guidance and role description
Colleges are able to appoint external members to committees in order to strengthen the breadth of experience, knowledge and skills available to those committees, usually to address specific issues such as a capital project or financial challenges. Co-opted members are not members of the Governing Body and therefore do not have voting rights on Board matters.
Further information and templates are available here Co-opted Governor Role
Link Governors - help or hindrance?
There is a growing requirement for Link Governors to be appointed for specialist areas such as Careers, SEND, mental health, sustainability etc. Making such appointments must be treated with care and clarity.
The primary responsibility of a link governor, is to enhance the understanding of every member of the board on the area to which they are linked. Boards have collective responsibility, so discussions and decisions should never be delegated to or left for the 'expert' in the room to lead on. Neither should the link governor act as an unpaid consultant, getting actively involved in the operational work of that area. This leads not only to confusion on behalf of the Executive, but also the potential for a committee and/or the Board to be in a position of 'marking its own homework'. As the saying goes, never appoint a governor for something you can get a consultant to do!
In practice, each board should look to develop thematic board members. These are people who recurrently offer a distinct perspective. While their expertise may shape their viewpoints, it is their experience, conviction, and business acumen—not their status—that adds value.
Governors are appointed to provide general oversight and strategic direction. Boards are best when they exercise collective judgment on each agenda item put forward, from appointing senior leaders to making key financial decisions. Value arises from each member having an equal voice and no person having power over another. Even board chairs are merely first among equals, presiding more for coordination than authority.
By law, every governor has the same fiduciary duty. Every governor must develop an ‘understanding’ and an ‘ability to assess’ the issues. The concept of a link governors could undermine these strengths. Whilst they may be able to spot risks ahead of others, if one governor is a board’s resident cyber or climate expert, others will unduly defer to that person, may skip doing homework or posing questions, and create false complacency. That hurts institutions.
It would be good to have empirical research on the relationship between board member expertise and institutional outcomes, whether overall corporate performance or the incidence of events , but there is limited research probing the relationship of board member expertise and performance or outcomes, such as between cyber expertise and data breaches or between climate expertise and lower emissions.
Governors are generalists, charged with overseeing managers, who are specialists, so whilst there may be assumed merit in the appointment of link governors, it is essential that they operate with clarity of purpose and responsibility, and that all board members are clear of their part in collective responsibility.
Careers Guidance Lead Governor - guidance with role description
In January 2021 the Government published the FE White Paper, entitled Skills for Jobs: Lifelong Learning
for Opportunity and Growth. The White Paper sets out the Government’s ambition for the further education
sector, career guidance, and vocational and technical education across England’s schools and colleges and
this builds upon its Careers Strategy, published in December 2017.
Governing bodies have a key role in ensuring colleges not only meet their legal and other requirements, but
also provide the best possible education, training and preparation for adult and working life. This includes
equipping learners with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices about their futures. Governors
can do this by offering strategic support and challenge to college leaders and by holding the principal
to account for the quality of provision of careers education, information, and guidance.
All further education (FE) colleges and sixth form colleges in England are subject to a requirement to
secure access for learners to independent careers guidance. This forms part of FE college and sixth form
college funding agreements. Colleges also have a legal requirement to provide all learners with guidance
materials and a wide range of up-to-date reference materials relating to careers education and career
opportunities. These requirements have been in place since 2013.
Further details on the requirements and best practice for careers guidance in FE, together a role description for a governor lead on careers guidance, online modules, and recommended questions to ask of management, have been produced by the Careers and Enterprise Trust which can be found on their governor resources page.
Digital Link Governor - guidance and role description
The DfE has published guidance on Digital leadership and governance standards, which state that good digital technology governance:
* identifies roles and responsibilities
* establishes critical processes to manage digital technology
* ensures that up-to-date information on the school or college’s digital technology is available to support decision making
The guidance makes the recommendation to have a link governor of the Board to ensure the following actions are undertaken:
Assign a senior leadership team (SLT) member to be responsible for digital technology
Keep registers relating to hardware and systems up to date
Include digital technology within disaster recovery and business continuity plans
Have a digital technology strategy that is reviewed every year
A role description for such a link governor can be downloaded below.
Safeguarding Lead Governor - guidance and role description
It is the collectively responsibility of the Board to oversee its responsibilities in relation to staff and students. However, the guidance on Keeping Children Safe in Education, states, ‘Governing bodies and proprietors should have a senior board level (or equivalent) lead to take leadership responsibility for their school’s or college’s safeguarding arrangements’. The Safeguarding Governor plays an important role in ensuring oversight and scrutiny of the safeguarding policy, procedures and practices on behalf of the Corporation.
Further information and templates are available here Safeguarding Lead Governor Role
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Lead Governor role description
It is the collective responsibility of the Board to oversee its responsibilities in relation to equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in relation to staff and students and the governing body has considerable influence over the college's strategic planning, ethos and culture, compliance with the law, and continuous improvement in this regard. The requirement on the governing body concerning EDI is extensive under the Education Inspection Framework, the Public Sector Equality Duty, and the Code of Good Governance for English Colleges, and therefore the board may consider appointing a lead governor to have oversight of this work. A sample role description is available for download below.
Mental Health & Wellbeing Lead Governor role description
It is the collective responsibility of the Board to oversee its responsibilities in relation to staff and student wellbeing. The focus of such has tended to be on students and how the college’s vision, aims, ethos and culture promote an environment that instigates positive emotional wellbeing. Under the EIF introduced in September 2019, Ofsted recognised the importance of staff wellbeing to the effectiveness of colleges. We all know that happy, properly trained, well supported and motivated staff with a good work-life balance will have a more positive impact on students and require fewer absence days. By including staff wellbeing in their inspection framework, Ofsted are giving governors, leaders, and managers in colleges a strong encouragement to allocate resources and time to ensure development in this area. The DfE have made a commitment to reduce staff workload and are encouraging leaders to ensure staff have a positive work life balance. This focus by funders and regulators, together with the impact of Covid-19, brings mental health and wellbeing into closer focus. The board, in its role of setting organisational culture, should have close oversight of the wellbeing of staff and students and in doing so, may chose to nominate a governor to lead on this area.
A sample role description is available for download below.
Sustainable Development Link Governor
Further Education is uniquely placed to bring about transition and transformation in our society. The sector reaches millions of students, staff, and many communities in every town and city across the country. Crucially FE is the pipeline for the workforce of many industries, employers, and sectors who have a critical role to play in sustainable development. There are many areas for a link governor of sustainable development to consider:
- That FE leaders, teachers, and professional staff are using education to meeting society's sustainable development needs
- All learners are explicitly sustainable learners
- FE develops specialist sustainability skills to enable the green transition
- Education for sustainable development is being embedded in all curriculum areas and other student activities
- ESD is inclusive
- Net zero or regenerative infrastructure is use as part of the learning journey as well as to 'house' education
- FE institutions have positive impact in their communities to enhance sustainable development
A sample role description to support the governor who is linked to this area, is available for download below.
Higher Technical Education Link Governor
The governing body of a college that is registered with the Office for Students due to delivery of Higher Technical Education, may wish to appoint a governor with a special interest in higher technical education issues, primarily as an area that the college has ambitions to develop, make more distinctive, and have improved oversight of.
Although the governor will often have some expertise in the area for which they link on behalf of the governing body, they do not act as expert. The governor does not become involved in the management of the activity. A sample role description to support the governor who is linked to this area, is available for download below.
SEND Link Governor
Ensuring the ongoing achievement and success of SEND learners is a collective responsibility of the Governing Body. There is an expectation that the Governing Body will appoint a specific SEND Governor. The SEND Governor is the Governing Body’s champion for learners with SEND and those with inclusion needs. He or she will support and challenge the organisation to ensure that no learner is treated less favourably, denied opportunity, or left behind because they have additional needs, and that staff have high aspirations and expectations of all learners with SEND.
Governance Professional - guidance, job description, and competency framework
Under the Instrument of Government, Appointment of the Clerk to the Corporation, it is stated that:
- The Corporation shall appoint a person to serve as its Clerk, but the Group Principal may not be appointed as Clerk.
- In the temporary absence of the Clerk, the Corporation shall appoint a person to serve as a temporary Clerk, but the Group Principal may not be appointed as temporary Clerk.
- Any reference in this Instrument to the Clerk shall include a temporary Clerk appointed under paragraph (2).
- Subject to clause 14, the Clerk shall be entitled to attend all meetings of the Corporation and any of its committees.
- The Clerk may also be a member of staff at the institution.
The Clerk, is an independent constitutional officer of the Corporation. This is a key role to assist in ensuring that the College’s system of checks and balances operates effectively. The FE Commissioner, in a letter to the sector stated, 'Clerks are vital to the success of colleges. Clerks ensure that good governance
practice is followed and that the Principal/senior leadership team are not exceeding their authority. Clerks should be independent, supported and have the skills and experiences necessary to fulfil their role'.
Schedule 4 now allows the naming of the role and its responsibilities, to be undertaken and decided, entirely by the Corporation. Such responsibilities are required to be named in the Instrument.
Further information and templates are available here Governance Professional's Role
The Instrument & Articles of Government (I&As) make reference to the designation of 'senior-posts'. This designation refers to roles (usually held by members of the senior leadership team) that have been so designated as a 'senior-post'. This means the role so designated, is accountable to the Corporation. Under the 2008 Instrument:
- the Corporation is responsible for the appointment of senior post holders which it cannot delegate (Article 9(d))
- senior post holders are directly accountable to the Corporation (Article 3(1)(e))
- senior post holders may only be dismissed in accordance with procedures made under Article 16
- the Corporation may not delegate the consideration of the case for dismissal and the determination of an appeal against dismissal of senior post holders other than to a committee of Corporation members (Article 10(1))
- senior post holders are subject to special provisions relating to selection (Article 12)
Under Revised Schedule 4, Corporations have the freedom to dispense with the designation of 'senior posts'. This is most commonly done by removing the designation once a staff member in that role has left the college and before the new member is appointed. Designating or removing a designation can be done by a decision of the Corporation. Should the Corporation decide to change a designation whilst the post-holder is still in post, then careful consultation needs to be undertaken with the post holder and HR advice sought. If this designation is removed, then Articles 9-11, 12 and 18 would require revision also.
The Corporation should consider carefully the implications of removing this designation altogether. Many governors see this designation, particularly for senior roles responsible for finance, as a safeguard or check and balance process at the top of the organisation.
Further guidance on senior post-holder designation can be found in the annotated version of the I&As, as provided by Eversheds Solicitors for those purchasing their governance support package.
Human Resources - the role of the Governing Body
The Governing Body is the employer of staff and therefore has statutory and common law responsibilities in regard to them. The standard Instruments and Articles (I&As) which state the role of the Governing Body, include a responsibility under Articles 3, of:
- ‘the appointment, grading, suspension, dismissal and determination of the pay and conditions of service of the holders of senior posts and the Clerk, including, where the Clerk is, or is to be appointed as, a member of staff, the Clerk’s appointment, grading, suspension, dismissal and determination of pay in the capacity of a member of staff; and
- setting a framework for the pay and conditions of service of all other staff’.
Further guidance on the governing body's role in Human Resources can be found here.