Monday, 24 January 2011

Local councillor involvement on Governing Bodies

Local councillor involvement

There is evidence that local councillors acting as local authority school governors/members of governing bodies bring both advantages and disadvantages. There was evidence that local councillors in the local authority governor role can bring important expertise and experience and can have a helpful wider policy perspective.

Their involvement may not be explicitly ‘political’ (in the party political sense). For example, the headteacher of one School was clear that their involvement was “not political”.

When they participated at governing body meetings, they did not seek to bring party politics into the debate. At another School, the Chair of Governors was a local councillor who saw the responsibility as an important aspect of his work as a councillor.

In other examples, there were problems, typically about conflict over roles. In one School, tensions existed over a local authority decision to exercise claw-back from the school budget. The local councillor chose not to attend when the issue was being discussed at a meeting of the governing body.

At another School, where there were significant budgetary matters, including a clawback
of the school’s budget, the local authority governor attended the relevant meeting. At the meeting, he defended the local authority decision, which was to the school’s disadvantage. His line “irritated the other governors” who argued that he should resolve this conflict of interest.

The involvement of local councillors can bring complications.

• A local councillor who was the local authority governor at a school had resigned
from the governing body because he was in conflict over a grant to a charity in which he and another governor were involved. The Chair was holding open a community governor vacancy place on the governing body in the hope the councillor would return when the conflict had been resolved.

• The Chair of Governor of one governing body felt that the local authority councillor, who was also the local authority representative on the governing body, was not as committed to his responsibilities as he might have been because of other duties.

• The headteacher at one school was very direct: “local authority governors let us down”. She added: the councillors are “in it for political reasons – their party, they want to be part of a successful school in the area but they don’t attend, don’t know much about the school, and they’re not committed.”

• At another School, the continual non-attendance of a local councillor at governing body meetings was a source of considerable tension. Over a number of years, the governor concerned had attended only two of the meetings previous to the one observed where he was again absent. His apologies were once more not accepted by the meeting.

This research was taken from The full 'Hidden Givers' A study of School Governing bodies which can be found linked below.


  1. Issues of lack of commitment and non-attendance can happen equally across all types of governor. It is maybe a little unfair to suggest that these issues are associated more commonly when local councillors are governors.
    It could be argued that local councillors are the most highly involved and aware members of the local community in which the school sits and this can help the GB in appreciating the wider community around it.
    Councillors also represent their locality at varying levels, e.g. Parish/Town, District etc. some of which are purely voluntary and attract little or no allowance and have widely varying degrees of political sway. As opposed to being in it for political reasons' as one of the blog quotes suggested it may actually be the case that they are passionate about the community in which they live – including local schools and outcomes for young children in their area.
    Another aspect to this is that many a councillor, may have been a governor long before they ever became a councillor. Indeed governors are already community volunteers and becoming a councillor can become for some a natural progression on from a governor role. I have had only good experience from hard working councillors that I have experienced on our GB and issues of non - commitment and failure to turn up to meetings, will occur from time to time regardless of the type of governor.
    Authority Governor positions can be hard to fill. GBs need to be welcoming to all governors, regardless of how they come to the GB. An effective induction process can make expectations on both sides clear from the very beginning. To highlight councilors for misdemeanors that can occur amongst all types of governors and worryingly sometimes amongst those that actually volunteered themselves rather then councilors who may have been appointed by the LA is maybe a little unfair.

  2. I don't disagree with your comments. As you say non attendance can happen with all types of governors. Personally I have been blessed with very committed authority governors who contribute greatly to the FGB. The chair for 16 years at my school was an Authority governor. Going forward GB's under the new Education bill will no longer be required to have authority governors so they can pick and use person with the best skills.