Who are school governors?

School governors are the largest volunteer group in the UK. More than 300,000 support schools across the country. They come from all kinds of backgrounds, bringing a range of skills and perspectives.

You don’t have to work in education to be a governor. You need to care about education and able to commit some time to work with the school.

Watch ‘Making a difference’ and hear local governors and school leaders talk about the crucial role of school governors.

What do school governors do? 

Governors give strategic guidance to school leaders. They don't get involved in the operational running of schools. They help schools achieve the highest possible standards of educational achievement. 

Their role

  • work with other governors to plan the school’s strategic direction
  • oversee the school’s financial performance, ensuring money is well-spent
  • hold school leaders to account 

When they work well, governors collectively create huge strength, helping school leaders cope with challenges and handle change. 

Governors should be

  • fully committed to the role
  • discreet, open minded and fair
  • open to new ideas and ready to learn
  • able to discuss issues calmly, challenge constructively and decide collectively
  • honest, reliable and willing to account for their decisions
  • willing to attend meetings and training
  • happy to take part in the life of the school 

Governors should keep to the Nolan Principles, ethical standards for people involved in delivering public services.

What governors don’t do 

Governors don’t get involved in the day-to-day running of schools. They don’t get involved in what and how children learn.

They leave school leaders decide on how to spend the schools’ money. Governors are not involved in deciding which pupils will get into the school.

The powers and legal rights of governing bodies are collective. Governors do not have power as individuals.

Smiling governors

How much time does it take? 

Going to meetings, reading paperwork and getting to know your school can take 50 hours a year or more. Governing bodies usually meet once or twice a term for two or three hours. All governors are also expected to work on one or two committees. You will also need to be available to make some visits during the school day.

Governors’ expenses  

Governors are volunteers, so they don’t get paid. It is recommended that costs such as travel and childcare are reimbursed. Most governing bodies agree a policy on governors’ expenses, although they don’t have to, so check with the school if you are unsure. 

Time off work  

Employers should allow some time off work for governor work. They don't have to pay for that time, though some do. Governors should agree a reasonable amount of time off.  

Legally, the decision should be based on:

  • the amount of time required for the role of school governor
  • any other time off you get
  • how your time off will affect the business.

Most governors meetings are outside standard working hours, or you might only need to miss some time at the end of the day. Sometimes though, you might need to visit the school during the day or attend training. 

If you want to be a governor in a Tower Hamlets school, go on our becoming a governor page. 

Get in touch 

Find out more by calling Governor Services on  020 7364 3141 or email governor.servicessection@towerhamlets.gov.uk