Almost all of you will know that St John’s has a Governing Body, but not many people tend to know what we actually do, or indeed, what we are for. The roll of the Body is to set the strategic vision and direction for the School, but what does that really look like? The first thing to say is that Governance is a partnership between the Headteacher and the Governors. Together they become part of the leadership of the School.
The most important thing is that we know the School. That means everything from knowing about reading attainment in year 3, the range of clubs on offer after school, to ensuring the relevant health and safety legislation has been met! It is a huge, and never-ending task. Of course, one person can never know, or cover all of this, so the Governors work as a team, each with areas of responsibility.
There are twelve Governors appointed and recruited from a variety of areas. Mrs. Quirk is one as Headteacher, in the same way I am one as the Vicar of St John’s. Two are elected from among the parents, one is nominated form the Local Authority, one from Staff members, one form St John’s Church, and one from the Diocese of Rochester. The final four are co-opted, and appointed on their skills. From time to time ‘Associate Governors’ are appointed for their skills. Whilst not voting, they can contribute valuable expertise to the body; Martin Palmer, our previous caretaker currently acts as an Associate.
The Governors meet three times a year for their formal meetings. These are long and busy meetings, often with long agendas! In a sense these meetings, whilst the formal decision-making body, are not where the work happens.
Each Governor is a member of a committee. These meet regularly and deal with set areas; Finance, Safeguarding and Behaviour, Teaching, Learning and Attainment, Health and Safety, The religious character of St John’s, and Leadership and Management. These deal with a vast range of decisions, such as setting the budget, looking at standards in key subject areas, setting ambitious academic targets for the year going forward, ensuring the School’s Christian values are embedded in all areas of the School, making sure Safeguarding is effective and a host of other things.
Each Governor is responsible for a curriculum area and a class. Here they will liaise with staff member responsible and have a knowledge of how a subject is taught, what attainment is like, how those with different abilities are helped and developed, and what the children think. They will come and do prearranged visits twice, or so a year. These are not to judge the quality of a lesson, but rather an opportunity to look and learn about what is going on. At the same time, they might have lunch with the children, or watch a playtime, perhaps visit a club; all opportunities to learn about St John’s and what goes on.
Governors are expected to complete formal training. These often consist of evening courses, or online training modules. It means Governors have the requisite knowledge to do their job, and to ensure the School is carrying out their statutory obligations.
All of this enable Governors, as I said, to know the School. Once they know it, they are able to help, to offer challenge, to be a critical friend to the School. It means the Governors become a key partner in driving the improvement of our School. Every year the Governors look at the School Improvement plan for the previous year and assess, with the Headteacher, what it achieved, and what is needed for the coming year.
It is a task that can seem endless, and often full of impenetrable acronyms! The truth is that whilst it maybe endless, it is also immensely satisfying because, in a small way, each Governor contributes to the improvement and development of the School. Each brings professional and life experience that, combined with knowledge of the School, drives our School forward.
St John’s is fortunate to have a dedicated group of Governors. Vacancies do arise from time to time. Do you have the time, energy, commitment, and desire to contribute to help us in our task?