Tuesday, 4 January 2011

NGA view of School Governor Expenses

The National Governors Association (NGA) firmly believes that all governing bodies should adopt an allowances policy and that all school governors should claim.

The Education (Governors’ Allowances) Regulations 2003 provide the legal framework for governing bodies to pay ‘out of pocket’ expenses to their school governors. The DCSF guidance which accompanied those regulations states:

“It is good practice to pay such allowances as governors should not be out of pocket for the valuable work they do”.

Legitimate allowances include: travel allowances to Governing Body, Committee meetings or training courses, cost of child-care while attending meetings/training, cost of photocopying/printing papers for governing body business.

Back in 2005 the DfES commissioned the National Governors’ Council (now the NGA) to carry out research about the payment of allowances by governing bodies. Over 250 governors responded to the survey, which revealed that:

75% of respondents said that they were out of pocket as result of being a school governor

The Chair of governors was likely to have expenses exceeding other members of the governing body

32% of respondents said their governing body had no allowances policy in place

10% of respondents said their school governing body had an active policy NOT to pay allowances – with a further 31% of respondents saying that claiming allowances was discouraged

The research highlighted that school governors were reluctant to claim allowances for two main reasons:

As volunteers they did not think they should receive any ’reward’ for their role

As the payments came out of the school budget it was seen as ‘taking money away from the children’.

The payment of allowances is not a reward; it is recognition that being a school governor is not a cost-free exercise. Attending governing body meetings may involve travelling expenses, particularly in rural areas.

Some school governors may be able to afford the out of pocket expenses their role entails, but this is not true of all potential school governors and restricting the right to claim may prevent someone from becoming a school governor or force them to resign their position.

The NGA understands the reluctance to use school funds to pay school governor allowances, but if school governors are continually expected to meet the costs of fulfilling an essential role out of their own pocket then there is a real danger that a culture of doing the bare minimum will ensue; meaning school governors will not undertake training and will be poorly informed. Many governing bodies who have adopted an allowances policy set an annual limit on claims.

As a minimum the allowances policy should include the right to claim for:
travelling expenses to governing body meetings and training courses
the cost of child-care while attending meetings/training courses
the cost of photocopying/printing papers for governing body meetings

The Chair of governors should take the lead in encouraging school governors to claim by ensuring that s/he claims. The use of school funds for this purpose does not take away funding from the pupils; this ensures that governors are properly informed and equipped to carry out their role, which must be in the best interests of their pupils.

A governing body with a policy of paying allowances claims will also be going some way to meeting their duty to promote community cohesion by encouraging participation by all members of the community, not just those with deep pockets.

A model allowances policy from the NGA can be found here


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