What do governors and trustees do?

What do governors and trustees do?

School governors and trustees are people who want to make a positive contribution to children’s education.

Governors and trustees are one of the largest volunteer forces in the country and have an important part to play in raising school standards. The role of the governing board is absolutely key to the effectiveness of a school. Time and time again Ofsted (the national inspection body for schools) has noted that the most effective schools demonstrate effective leadership and management - including by the governing board.

Strategic leadership

School governors and trustees provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools. They appoint the headteacher and deputy headteacher. In some schools the site is owned by the governing board. Governors/trsutees hold the main responsibility for finance in schools, and it is governors and trustees who work with the headteacher to make the tough decisions about balancing resources.

Download our free role descriptions

Each individual governor is a member of a governing board, which is established in law as a corporate body. Individual governors may not act independently of the rest of the governing board and decisions are the joint responsibility of the governing board.  

The role of the governing board is a strategic one with three key functions:

  • Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.
  • Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils 
  • Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction

School governors and trustees have a number of responsibilities, which we've set out in more detail in our best-selling guide, Welcome to Governance.

Governors and trustees set the aims and objectives for the school or group of schools. They set the policies and targets for achieving those aims and objectives. They monitor and evaluate the progress the school is making and act as a source of challenge and support to the headteacher (a critical friend).

The headteacher is responsible for the internal organisation, management and control of the school and the implementation of the strategic framework established by the governing board. New to governance? Read more about being a governor in Welcome to Governance.

The video below was produced by ITN for the NGA. It shows the impact that a strong governing board can have on young people's education, and how governors use skills from other areas of their life to help their school. It features the governing body of the Federation of Gislingham and Palgrave, who were joint winners of the NGA Oustanding Governing Board Awards in 2013. The NGA is committed to helping all governing boards be just as effective.

Who can become a governor?

Almost anyone over 18 years of age can become a governor. There are no particular qualifications or requirements, other than a willingness to give time to the role and a capacity for working with other people. There are different types of school with different categories of governor.

The types of state schools in England are:
  • community
  • voluntary controlled
  • voluntary aided
  • foundation
  • trust – a type of foundation school
  • academies, free Schools & City Technology Colleges (CTCs) – independent state funded schools
There are also different categories of governor:
  • parent
  • staff
  • foundation
  • partnership
  • local authority
  • co-opted

The type of governor you will become depends on your situation; however all governors have the same roles and responsibilities once part of the governing board.

How do I become a governor/trustee?

If you think you have what it takes to be a school governor or trustee there are a number of ways of finding schools that have vacancies:

  • You can use the free Inspiring Governance website
  • You can contact your local school to ask if they need a new governor/trustee
  • You can contact your local council