The Department for Education has today issued the updated statutory guidance setting out the arrangements for the constitution of governing bodies of all local-authority-maintained schools. It has been updated with guidance on new powers to remove elected governors. The passages relating to the removal of elected governors are as below. I have highlighted (in red) passages which, I think, governors should pay extra attention to.
C.5. Removal of governors (regulations 20-24A)
The governing body may also remove an appointed or an elected, parent or staff governor.
It is advised that every effort be made to avoid potential difficulties later by informing prospective election candidates, or appointees, of the nature of the role. It is advised that their agreement is secured to a clear set of expectations for behaviour and conduct – as set out in a code of conduct. A code of conduct is expected to detail (within the parameters of relevant regulations and this guidance) the circumstances in which the governing body may suspend or remove a governor. Good training, a thorough induction and effective chairing are also vital in helping to prevent situations occurring in the first place. It is advised that induction includes a clear setting out of the expectations of the governor role.
Governing bodies are expected only to exercise the power to remove an elected governor in exceptional circumstances where the actions or behaviour of the elected governor warrants removal rather than suspension. The power should not be used simply to remove dissenting or challenging voices. Good governance involves asking courageous questions and offering appropriate professional challenge. A diverse range of viewpoints contributes to healthy debate and good decision making; and avoids governing boards becoming inappropriately dominated by a single narrow perspective.
The five year disqualification term for removal reflects the expectation that the power to remove an elected governor will only be used in exceptional and serious circumstances (and such seriousness will depend on the facts of the case). Examples which could give rise to removal are where:
(a) there have been repeated grounds for suspension;
(b) there has been serious misconduct. Governing bodies should decide what constitutes serious misconduct based on the facts of the case. However, it is expected that any actions that compromise the Nolan principles, if sufficiently serious, would be considered in scope of this reason for removal.
(c) a governor displays repeated and serious incompetence; for example where an elected governor is unwilling or unable, despite all appropriate support, to develop the skills to contribute to effective governance; or where attendance is so irregular that the governor is unable to make any meaningful contribution to the work of the board.
(d) the governor has engaged in conduct aimed at undermining fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; and/or;
(e) the actions of the governor are significantly detrimental to the effective operation of the governing body, distracting it from its core strategic functions; and/or the actions of a governor interferes with the operational efficiency of the school thereby wasting a significant amount of headteacher and /or senior leadership time.
C.6 Procedure for removal of governors by the governing body (regulation 25)
Removal by a governing body of a co-opted governor, partnership governor, ex-officio foundation governor, appointed parent governor or elected parent or staff governor is effected by resolution of the governing body but only if:
- the removal is confirmed by a resolution passed at a second meeting of the governing body not less than 14 days after the first meeting;
- the removal of the governor has been specified as an item on the agenda of both meetings; and
- the following additional conditions are satisfied.
Where the governor concerned is an ex-officio foundation governor, or is a partnership governor whose removal has been requested by the nominating body, the additional condition is that the governing body considers the reasons for removal and gives the governor concerned the chance to make a statement in response.
Where the governor concerned is a co-opted governor, a partnership governor, elected parent or staff governor, or an appointed parent governor, the governor proposing the removal must at the meeting give reasons for the proposal and the governor concerned must have the chance to make a statement in response.
Governing bodies are expected to provide an appeals procedure to enable any removed governor to test the reasonableness of the governing body’s decision to remove them. It is advised that an independent panel conducts the appeal, which could include a governor from another school, and/or a suitable official from the local authority, or a suitable diocesan representative.
It is advised that any governor subject to removal is provided with written details of the case against them ahead of any meeting, and it is advised this includes details of how their case is being handled, and the timeframes involved. They must then be given sufficient time and support to respond.