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School Governors - Who Are They?

As Speech Day is, unfortunately, not going ahead this year, our Chair of Governors, Val Cusworth, will not have the opportunity to address the parents, pupils and staff of Hill House in the traditional manner. Instead, Val has taken over this week's blog, taking the chance to explain who governors are and why they are so important to the school community. 

School Governors can sometimes come over as quite mysterious people, moving in the background of a school’s operation, and appearing in the front rows on Speech Day and at the School’s Carol Service! And yet no school can legally function without a Board of Governors. This group of people are answerable to higher authorities not only for the academic but also for the legal and financial aspects of the school’s operation. 

Hill House’s Board of Governors is quite unusual in that all of the current members are, or have been, parents of the school - a factor that was picked up on by the Lead Inspector in our last full inspection. He queried whether this was a good thing - did it make us too insular? When he saw the minutes of our meetings, became aware of the range of skills the Governors bring to decision making, and learned of the projects we have worked on with the Senior Management Team of the School, he was completely convinced of the enormous benefits of such parental involvement.

So how do we operate? In addition to Full Board meetings with all Governors and the Senior Management Team (SMT) 4 times a year, sub committees meet regularly and minutes of all of these meetings are made available to all Governors. This high level of information exchange is key to everyone’s full engagement. Any issues for wider discussion can then be added to Full Board agendas. The sub committees operate round a range of themes, specifically Academic, Finance, Human Resources, and Statutory and Regulatory, the latter dealing with what are the legal rules and regulations we have to meet. In addition, we can hold Extraordinary meetings on a specific topic e.g. Coronovirus Lockdown, or establish a working party of Governors with particular knowledge and skills to look at a specific project such as the recent development of the Dining Hall. Governors with particular interests serve on these sub committees and work with members of the Senior Management Team. I would like to think that the relationship between the SMT and the Governors can best be described as symbiotic!

It is not always easy taking on Governor responsibilities. In addition to the time commitment involved, your judgment has to be totally professional at all times as you will inevitably be privy to confidential matters and decision making. That can be tough if other parents see you as a vehicle for their concerns! However, on a very positive note it can be hugely beneficial to pick up on a general mood over an issue. It can be a challenging balancing act at times! In addition, Governors may be involved in the appointing of staff or, on rare occasions, in disciplinary issues according to the legal constitution of the school.

The Governing Body is always looking to the future for the school, both in promoting the quality of the learning experience for our children and in establishing the best environment for those who are employed by the school in whatever capacity. Our latest venture has been the purchase of Oxford House. There are exciting times ahead for Hill House School and I see no reason why future Governing Bodies should not continue to oversee the school’s progress with great success!