NGA provides a range of information, guidance and development opportunities to support chairs of governing boards in what is a complex and challenging role.
We used our research into how chairs spend their time to create these time management tips. Each chair brings unique skills, experience and circumstances to their role - everyone works differently but we hope our tips offer helpful suggestions.
1. Develop strong working relationships that set reasonable expectations
- A relationship with your vice chair that's built on understanding one another’s strengths will likely lead to efficient sharing of workload and build the leadership capacity of the governing board. Find out more about the role of vice-chair here.
- The relationship between chair and school leader is fundamental. Planning from the outset how your routine engagement will work (e.g. a monthly ‘catch-up’ meeting) helps build realistic routines that work alongside one another’s commitments.
- Be prepared to speak up and say if the workload of the chair is becoming unmanageable for you – what can be changed, done differently, adjusted to make it more manageable?
- Tasks like new governor induction and mentoring could be shared across the governing board.
- Model role descriptions can be adapted to document the delegation decisions you make - governing boards are most effective when everyone is clear about their roles and responsibilities.
- If you’re a chair within a multi academy trust, our scheme of delegation guidance provides an opportunity to reflect on how delegation works in your trust.
3. Fully utilise your clerk’s services and expertise
- A good clerk/governance professional is fundamental to the smooth running of meetings and the overall effectiveness of all governing boards.
- Work efficiently with your clerk and draw on their services fully, allowing you to focus on leadership of the board and strategic responsibilities (rather than administrative tasks).
- You can’t be knowledgeable about all education issues – your clerk should be able to locate key information to support you when required.
- For more information about the role of clerk or governance professional, you can read model role descriptions here.
4. Concentrate on what’s important
- Given the responsibility attached to the role of chair, it might feel like you have a duty to participate in all aspects of school life.
- Focusing on strategic priorities rather than operational activities helps make the most of the time you have available and maximises the overall impact of your board.
- Our Being Strategic guide provides a framework for strategy development and a focused monitoring approach.
5. Don’t govern at more than one layer in a multi academy trust
- If you’re chair of a MAT trust board, avoid taking up additional positions on a local academy committee or as a member of the trust. The role of chair in a MAT is substantial and so taking up multiple positions isn’t recommended.
- It’s also important that members are independent of trustees in order carry out effective oversight and hold trustees to account for good governance – this is difficult to achieve if trustees are also members.
- Learn more from our guide academy trusts: the role of members
6. Take time to reflect
- We asked a number of chairs to keep a diary of how they spend their governing time; many participants found the diary a useful self-evaluation tool.
- If you step back from your to-do list, you may find an opportunity to do things differently - perhaps when you reflect on the work you’ve done, you can see where you’ve made the biggest impact.
- The NGA Leading Governance leadership development programme provides chairs, vice chairs, committee chairs and future chairs opportunities for developing leadership skills and confident governance. The programme provides opportunities for networking and peer support.
Download time management tips for chairs (PDF)