INFORMATION ON GOVERNORS AT ST MARY’S
The Church of England has a long association with education in this country. The first primary schools were established 200 years ago with Church funds, and they carried the main burden of education until the system of state maintained schools came into being in the late 19th century. Today, about a sixth of primary pupils attend Church schools.
St Mary’s was founded in 1812. Like most Church Schools, it is a Voluntary Aided school: “aided”, because it is funded almost entirely by the state, and “voluntary” because the Church voluntarily helps in running, funding and advising its work. Church schools are now an intrinsic part of the state education system but the Church retains significant influence over them:
• it ensures that the school’s character, religious education and worship reflect the Christian character of the school in accordance with the school's Trust Deed (this is a document which sets out the original purposes of the school)
• it makes a financial contribution to the maintenance and improvement of the buildings
• it owns the school’s land and buildings
• it employs the staff and decides admissions arrangements
• it has the responsibility for appointing a majority of the Governors.
7 of the 12 governors at St Mary’s are Church-appointed Foundation Governors. They are nominated by the following church constituencies and appointed by the London Diocesan Board for Schools (known as the LDBS) for a four year term of office:
• 2 governors nominated by the LDBS itself
• 1 governor nominated by the Parochial Church Council of St Mary-at-Finchley
• 1 governor nominated by the Parochial Church Council of St Paul’s Finchley
• 1 governor nominated by the Central Barnet Deanery Synod
• The Rector of St Mary-at-Finchley (ex-officio)
• The Vicar of St Paul’s Finchley (ex-officio)
The 5 other governors include the Headteacher, one appointed by Barnet Council, two elected by parents and one elected by staff.
KEY DUTIES OF GOVERNORS (AS RECOMMENDED BY THE DEPARTMENT FOR EDUCATION IN JANUARY 2014)
• The ‘board of governors’ should operate at a strategic level, leaving the head teacher and senior school leaders responsible and accountable to it for the operational day-to-day running of the school.
• The board should avoid its time being consumed with issues of secondary importance, and focus strongly on three core functions:
• Setting the vision and strategic direction of school;
• Holding the head teacher to account for its educational performance; and
• Ensuring financial resources are well spent.
• Governors need a robust process and framework for setting priorities, creating accountability and monitoring progress.
• It is good practice for the board to review its own performance regularly and publish an annual statement to explain how it has fulfilled its responsibilities.
• Boards should develop and maintain a scheme of delegation to define explicitly at which level each of its functions will be exercised. It is crucial that the board as a whole retains oversight of the core functions.
• The chair has a vital role in keeping the board focused on its core functions, and in ensuring it operates effectively, including through the active contribution of all its members.
• High quality professional clerking is crucial to the effective functioning of the board.
• Members of the board and its committees must be present in a meeting to vote, but they may be present ‘virtually’, for example by telephone or video conference.
WHAT IS THE ROLE AND IMPORTANCE OF GOVERNORS?
The principal role of all governors is to act as ‘critical friend’ to the leadership of the school at the strategic level. In other words, governors do not have a role in running the school day-to-day, but they advise on its policy and general direction, working through the Headteacher to monitor the policies which they have formally set. Although the Foundation Governors are expected to have particular regard to the Christian ethos of the School, all governors are expected to:
• support the Christian ethos of the school. This is set out in St Mary’s Instrument of Government as follows: Recognising its historic foundation, the school will preserve and develop its religious character in accordance with the principles of the Church of England and in partnership with the Church at parish and diocesan level. The school aims to serve its community by providing an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian beliefs and practice. It encourages an understanding of the meaning and significance of faith, and promotes Christian values through the experience it offers to all its pupils.
• ensure that the foundation character of the School, as set out in the Trust Deed, is upheld.
• play a full and active part in the work of the Governing Body, supporting those who ensure that a distinctively Christian viewpoint is given due weight – for example in the selection and appointment of staff, RE and Collective Worship, the spiritual, moral, social & cultural development of children, sex education, etc.
• be aware of LDBS policies (http://schools.london.anglican.org) and National Society guidelines (www.churchofengland.org/education.aspx) and have regard to them in any decisions they make.
• promote strong links between the school and the different church communities and in doing so keep the Church well informed about the school and ways it can help.
HOW MUCH TIME IS INVOLVED IN BEING A GOVERNOR?
There are currently 5 full governors’ meetings each year, each about 2 hours long in the evening. There is a certain amount of paperwork in advance, and the more of it one has read the better! In addition, there are several committees and working parties, each with perhaps 4 or 5 governors, which concern themselves with particular aspects of the school, e.g. Standards and Learning, Staffing, Finance and Premises, Admissions, Section 48 Group. All governors belong to at least one of these, and meeting times are arranged to suit members. One could expect this to involve another 4 meetings a year. Governors are encouraged to develop their expertise through induction courses and other training opportunities, and by reading relevant materials.
The amount of time governors can actually be in school varies according to their own time commitment, and there is no formal requirement. Visits could be made formally wearing the governor "hat", but we do not do this very often. More often, and more helpful in many ways, especially for parent governors, is simply to be around the school, attending concerts and events, helping with reading, coming to acts of collective worship, etc. However, it is perfectly possible to be an effective governor whilst not being able to be in school very often.
It is a privilege to be a governor of any school and at St Mary’s it is felt that it is a particular privilege to be a governor there. As a governor, a person can support and help to enhance the education of primary school pupils, and support the involvement of the two sponsor churches and the Foundation Governors. For Christians, being a governor is a significant Christian ministry.
If you would like to explore further the possibility of being a governor please feel free to speak with Nigel Wildish, the current Chair of Governors, or Stefan Roos, the current Head Teacher. They can be reached through the School office.