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Advice for new Governors  

Brooke Weston Academy’s Chair of Governors, Phil Harris Bridge, has advice for those who are new to the role or thinking of applying.

Phil, who has been a Governor for around 25 years and at Brooke Weston for more than a decade, said: ‘The first question I always ask potential Governors is “what are you going to add?” and “what will you get out of it?” If that is clear and logical in the context of the school environment, then the next phase would be meeting the SLT and talking through what are we trying to achieve.

‘As far as advice for new governors, they have to absolutely understand three documents: The first is the Scheme of Delegation so they know what decisions are made where. Until I got involved in the local authority maintained sector I didn’t realise that, as Chair of Governors you hold responsibility for everything that happens in a school. In a Multi Academy Trust, that responsibility is spread across the central team, the local senior leadership team, the board of directors, the local governing board and others.

‘Second is the Governor's Code of Conduct; what is expected of you as a governor and the expectations of behaviour. For example, a staff governor is first and foremost a governor, bringing a staff viewpoint and perspective but is not a staff representative. A parent governor is first and foremost a governor but bringing the experience of parent/carer and student to the Governing board's discussions. The third is the School Development Plan outlining what the Academy is aiming to achieve, when, why and how. Read those three documents. Ultimately the governing board wants to help the new governor to hit the ground running, to be actively contributing as early as possible.

‘The primary objectives of the Governing Body are to make sure the school is or is planning to deliver excellent student progress and excellent outcomes for all students and is keeping students and staff safe. Those three documents will give new governors a good understanding of how the Trust works, what is expected of them regarding behaviour and what their individual Academy is trying to achieve in terms of school development.

‘If you come to the first meeting not having read those documents your ability to actively contribute will be severely limited. Meetings can be intimidating. Normally what I experience with new Governors is for the first two meetings they say nothing or very little. As Chair of Governors it is my responsibility to invite them to make observations because the best and most incisive observations they can make are based on common-sense and when they know very little about the complexity of the education sector. They are hearing stuff and their brains go “What? Why?” and that is what you want to get out of them. Once they have got over the hurdle of asking their first question they feel comfortable enough to start to contribute regularly. The main thing to remember is there is no such thing as a daft question. If you don’t understand something then the chances are that others will need that information clarifying as well.’

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