Matters concerning advertising the post of Chair of Governors

The other day I came across a “job” advertisement different to any I have seen. This was a school looking for a Chair of Governors. The ad was tweeted by Matt Mullarkey and can be found here.

This led some of us on Twitter to wonder when and why would a GB advertise to recruit a Chair.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles FreeDigitalPhotos.net

One obvious reason could be lack of a member willing to take on the role of the Chair.

The other reason a GB may want to advertise the post is if the GB wants to get someone with specific skills, experience or a fresh perspective to lead them. Note that I say GB not the school. This is an important distinction as it’s the GB who should be electing someone to lead them and not the school.

Although this was the first time I had come across such an ad, this has been suggested as a means of appointing chairs by the Academies Commission. The Commission published a report, Unleashing Greatness in 2013. The report states,

The Commission believes that the process for appointing chairs of governing bodies should become more professional and rigorous, in order to ensure high-calibre appointees. Chairs’ posts should be advertised, as is widely the case with other public sector Board roles, and schools should be expected to have at least one independent person on the selection panel for a new Chair.”

If I was asked to design an ad for a Chair, what would I put in it? In other words what would the job description and person specification be? The NCTL guidance describes the role of the chair is to

  • Ensure effective governance
  • Building an effective team
  • Acting as a critical friend to the Head
  • Ensuring school improvement
  • Ensuring statutory requirements are met

As far as person specification is concerned the candidate should

  • Be a team builder and team player
  • Be a good communicator
  • Have an interest in education
  • Be able to ask challenging questions of the school leadership
  • Be able to form a strong and professional relationship with the Head
  • Be able to manage time effectively
  • Be able to work effectively with the Clerk

The ad should also make clear what the GB’s expectations are. The Academies Commission’s Report goes onto state

In addition, any new Chair should be expected to undertake formal training within six months of being appointed. The Commission would like to see the National College hosting an annual conference for chairs of governors (which there is an onus to attend).”

As far as training is concerned, that should be an essential requirement. It may be argued that if a candidate has experience of chairing a board, that should be sufficient. In my opinion chairing a school governing board requires specific skills for which training is essential. One type of formal training which is available is the NCTL Chair Development Programme. Chairs undertaking training will also, hopefully, ensure that other governors keep their training up to date.

Another prerequisite in my opinion is experience of governance. Ideally, I would expect at least two years experience as a governor for anyone considering standing as chair. “Professional expertise” from other sectors is undoubtedly useful but school governance requires specific skills and knowledge, for example understanding progress and attainment data. Then there is the educational jargon!

In order for a GB to recruit a Chair through advertisement there needs to be a vacancy on the board for an appointed governor. Under current regulations only a serving governor can be elected as the Chair. The GB needs to agree the selection criteria and shortlisting, interview and appointment processes. Once these are in place the successful candidate can be elected as Chair. Will we see more and more GB’s advertising for Chairs? Only time will tell.

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