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Chair and vice chair of governors

Being a chair of governors is a key leadership role and governing boards are central to the effective accountability of schools.

Leading the governing board and working in partnership with the headteacher, the chair plays a pivotal role in school improvement.

To be effective, you need a good understanding of the role and its responsibilities so that your school gains maximum benefit from the work that you do.

You also need to ensure that all governors understand the role and responsibilities of the governing board, which can vary slightly depending on the type of school such as voluntary aided, foundation, academy, multi-academy or federation.

Induction for new chairs

Welcome to news chairs' briefing (pdf) June 2017 - login* - The local authority have developed this introductory briefing on the key roles and responsibilities of chairs of school governing boards giving all new and current chairs a clear overview of what is involved. It is in addition to the Ealing chairs of governors information pack (word) - login* for all new (and existing) chairs.

Ealing's CPD online will be offering' The effective chair' in addition to induction training for all new governors.

* *An EGfL user account is required to view this document. No user account yet? Please use the registration form on this site.

Support for chairs

Ealing run a termly network for chairs (existing, new, aspiring chairs, vice and chairs of committees) and also has an extensive programme of training available on Ealing CPD online for all governors and clerks.

Key roles of the chair

  • Leading effective governance - Giving the governing board a clear lead and direction, ensuring that the governors work as an effective team and understand their accountability and the part they play in the strategic leadership of the school and in driving school improvement.
  • Building the team - Attracting governors with the necessary skills and ensuring that tasks are delegated across the governing board so that all members contribute, feel that their individual skills, knowledge and experience are well used and that the overall workload is shared.
  • Relationship with the headteacher - Being a critical friend by offering support, challenge and encouragement, and ensuring the headteacher’s appraisal/performance management is rigorous and robust; a good comparison is with the role of the chair of a board of trustees who works with the chief executive of an organisation but does not run day-to-day operations.
  • Improving your school - Ensuring school improvement is the focus of all policy and strategy and that governor monitoring reflects school improvement priorities.
  • Leading the business - Ensuring that statutory requirements and regulations are met, that the school provides value for money in its use of resources and that governing board business is conducted efficiently and effectively.

The chair plays a crucial role in setting the culture of the governing board and is first among equals, but has no individual power.

The governing board is a corporate entity and its power and authority rest with the governing board as a whole.

On occasions, the chair may need to take chair’s action in an emergency, but any such action must be reported to the whole governing board as soon as possible.

Generally, being a chair should take up no more than 20 days a year, equal to about half a day for each week of term-time.

However, in particular circumstances it can take more e.g. school in special measures.

Take time with the headteacher and governors to set priorities and focus your work on these.

A role profile for the chair or vice-chair can be found in the governor toolkit.

Terms of office

The minimum term of office is one year and the maximum period is four years.

The governing board decides on the chair and vice-chair’s terms of office before the election.

If the chair is absent from a meeting, or if the office of chair is vacant, the vice-chair will act as chair for all purposes.

For election of clerks and vice-chairs, visit election procedures.

Delegation of functions in an emergency

The chair or vice-chair has the power to carry out functions of the governing board if a delay in exercising a function is likely to be seriously detrimental to the interests of the school, a pupil at the school or their parents, or a person who works at the school.

This power excludes matters related to the alteration and closure of schools, change of school category, and change of school name, approval of the budget, discipline policies and admissions.

Any action taken under this power must be reported to the governing board.

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Last updated: 26 Sep 2018