Monday, 10 October 2011

National College: Chair of Governors Building the Team Surrey Case Study

Doris Neville-Davies has been chair of the governing body of Sayes Court School in Surrey for five years, having joined the school when it was in challenging circumstances. In 2008 the school
added a foundation class and changed from a junior to a primary school. Governance has recently been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted. 

A highly experienced chair, Doris has been a governor at six other schools and is an ‘additional skills governor’ for the county.

Doris said: “It is the chair’s responsibility to enable a group of individual governors to develop into a team of governors who can work together effectively. When I joined Sayes Court, they had some real problems. There was a huge budget deficit, results were poor, people were taking their children away and a lot of the governors were leaving too.

“One of the first tasks was to bring in new governors, people who could contribute to taking the school forward. I wasn’t the best person to find new parent governors,existing parent governors were, so they approached people to stand for election while I looked to bring on board people
via other channels – the local authority, the local volunteer bureau and School Governors’ One-Stop Shop. Not only was it about sharing the workload but it was important as an expression of our corporate responsibility.

“There’s a temptation in these circumstances to go it alone as chair but part of your responsibility as a leader is to know how to delegate. Building a team is about looking at where you have strengths and how you can use them. One of our governor’s business experience is invaluable to the resources committee, while another, who works in education, is equally crucial
to our children and learning committee. The rest of us can also learn from their skills.

“The chair is also the person who ensures that governors understand the split between their strategic role and the operational one played by the headteacher and senior leaders in school. The need to hold the headteacher to account can be difficult for some. Some parent governors
in particular find it very easy to support the school but more difficult to ask that challenging question about, say, why the SATs results are disappointing. It’s up to the chair to instil in the governing body the understanding that it is there to offer challenge as well as support.”


Taken from Leading Governors Booklet

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