Successful School Leaders say “Talk to your Parent Governors!”

A Parent governor cannot act as an advocate for a parent who complains and a governor’s reaction to any complaint will probably be “have you spoken about this to the class teacher and/or the Headteacher”? However, parent governors can play “a vital two-way communication role: as an ambassador for the school, informing and reassuring parents about the outcome of debates and governing body decisions, and in turn informing fellow governors about parental reactions to such decisions”.

A parent governor is required to put forward their own views to the governing body, rather than acting on behalf of the parent body, but they are in a good position to reflect back parental reactions to policy decisions to fellow governors and to the Headteacher.

It is generally accepted that a good relationship between parents and governors will benefit the whole school community. A former head teacher and chair of governors writes that:

The reasoning is simple: if governors know what parents want, they will be more able to deliver it; and if parents know what governors do and who they are, they can help to make the governing body itself more effective. These two groups within the school community have many common interests and much to offer each other. Together they have much to contribute to the enhancement of the school as a whole.

Then there’s the group of parent-governors. Parent-governors are, of course, exactly the same as any other governors; they don’t carry a special mandate to act or vote in any particular way. But it is usually assumed that parent-governors will have useful channels of communication with other parents, and that they will, informally at least, represent the sort of views commonly held by parents as a whole within your school. This is a channel of communication that needs to be exploited. Do your parent-governors ever meet together to discuss issues? Do they ever hold feedback meetings for parents? Do they attend PTA meetings to canvass opinions or convey information about proposals and decisions? Do they hold any kind of surgeries or clinics, to which parents can bring any anxieties, complaints or suggestions?

Governors should attend as many functions as possible – and not as VIPs! For example, in my own school, the governors staff the gate at the PTA’s annual summer fair. We organise the rota ourselves. It gives us a chance to meet people and often some serious discussion takes place”.

It’s very effective if governors maintain a presence in the playground at the beginning and end of the school day; especially those governors who are also parents. By so doing, you can pick up the latest concerns, give guidance to parents with complaints, and generally make it very clear that the governors are not some distant, aloof gathering of people who take important decisions and are rather above all this stuff directly involving children: but that you are a group of genuinely concerned people, who know what the school is really like, and are an active part of its community”.

When approaching your governors, you need to remember that governors are not responsible for the day to day running of the school and that parent governors are bound by the same rules of confidentiality (respecting the absolute confidentiality of sensitive issues and the general duty not to divulge an individual governor’s standpoint) and corporate responsibility (accepting and supporting a team decision even if you personally feel strongly opposed to it).

Parent governors must remain impartial and cannot act as advocates on behalf of parents, but it is part of their role to consider the views and concerns of parents regarding the policy decisions made by the governing body. These views can be monitored using questionnaires and other formal enquiries, but parent governors are in the unique position of being able to access informal discussions and views expressed by parents in the playground.

Parent governors may not be able to answer a parent’s questions or act on their complaints, but they are the eyes and ears of the governing body in the playground and they can convey back to the governing body an accurate view of parents reactions to school policy and practice.

Parent governors are a vital channel of communication between parents and the governing body and it is agreed by professionals that better communication within the school community leads to better outcomes for the children of the school.

Role of Governors:

Governing Bodies work in partnership with the Head Teacher, Local Authority and community of the school to provide the best possible education for their pupils. Governors have three key roles:

1. Working Strategically

Defining the school’s values, vision and aims, to discuss and agree plans and policies.

Inputting to the School development plans which must cover the immediate future of the school and show the longer progress the school will make over a period of 3-5 years.

2. Acting as a Critical Friend

Supporting the Head Teacher and staff, as well as constructively challenging and building on their expectations to ensure that the best possible outcomes for children are achieved.

3. Ensuring Accountability

Governors answer for their decisions and the school’s performance to key stakeholders – parents, carers, teachers & staff. To do so they must receive information from the Head Teacher that helps them decide what is working well and where further improvement is necessary.

The Board of Governors is made up of representatives of the Local Authority, parents, teachers and members of the local business community. The Governors are responsible for the general direction of the school. They take decisions concerning staffing, curriculum and finance and premises. The Governors meet as a whole group at least once each term to discuss the needs and achievements of the school .


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