The Named Safeguarding Governor Role
In this article, SSS Learning content author and former headteacher Sara Rawnsley explores the roles of and skills needed to fulfil named / link governor and trustee roles.
Named or link governors and trustees take the lead in an area of their governing board’s responsibilities or help to monitor a specific improvement priority. They are appointed by the full governing board. This can also be an opportunity to utilise and capitalise on an individual member’s experience and skill set.
These specific roles do not remove the board’s collective responsibility. So, it is important that the governing board ensure that the named area is a topic on the agenda of full governing board and committee meetings, so that all members of the governing board are informed of the key issues, outcomes and areas for development.
Appointing named governors / trustees:
All governing boards are required to appoint governors or trustees to take responsibility for:
- Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) - (though this could be a committee to oversee SEND instead of an individual);
- Secondary school governing boards are encouraged by DfE to appoint an individual to take a strategic interest in careers education and guidance.
Beyond these mandatory roles, the National Governors Association advises boards to restrict further named governors/ trustees to:
- Those linked to current priorities in the board's strategy and/or school improvement plan, for example, to monitor the impact of pupil premium spending, the process of reading improvement etc;
- Those that are required for an effective monitoring programme.
When deciding whether named or link governors / trustees are required for areas beyond the mandatory Safeguarding, SEND and Careers Education (secondary only) or when reviewing already existing named roles, there are a number of questions that the board need to ask themselves:
- Why do we need this role, or do we still need this role?
- Does this role add real value to the board’s monitoring programme?
- Does the role have a clear set of responsibilities attached to it?
- What training or CPD is needed and available to those carrying out the role?
- Is the role duplicating what is done by other governors at full board and committee level?
- Does the board have more named / link governor roles than it can effectively manage with its current membership?
Named / Link governor / trustee responsibilities:
Roles should be agreed upon collectively by the governing board as well as by the individual governor / trustee, with a mutual understanding of the role’s expectations. Broadly, the role of the link governor/trustee is to:
- Build productive working relationships with relevant staff while having due regard for their work-life balance;
- Ensure necessary policies and procedures are in place and monitor and evaluate them;
- Arrange focused visits to the school(s). This is normally a maximum of one visit each term, based on strategic priorities and following an agreed visits protocol;
- Report back to the governing board following monitoring visits or discussions with staff;
- Be well-informed and prepared ahead of meetings with staff or the board by reading relevant information, such as policies and data;
- Keep the governing board fully informed about issues and actions in the assigned area;
- Participate in relevant personal development to improve skills and knowledge.
Skills needed to be an effective named governor / trustee:
- Link / named governors / trustees need an analytical eye. They need to measure impact and how to monitor this in the short and long term. They need to understand the effects of new initiatives, work with the governing board and senior leadership team to ensure an evaluation structure is in place and agree on how often to review progress.
- As with all governor / trustee roles, the link/ named role is a strategic one, as opposed to an operational function that theosenior leadership team executes. The named governor needs to clearly understand the higher-level thinking they need in their role, rather than the implementation of new initiatives within the day-to-day running of the school.
- Named governors / trustees must be prepared to challenge the senior leadership if the partnership is to be effective. This means questioning decisions, outcomes and identifying where improvements can be made. It might lead to having tough conversations which are vital for the school's progress, so they must be comfortable with this.
- The named governor / trustee role requires a broad-ranging understanding of and appreciation for the consequences of decisions made by the board and those made in collaboration with the leadership team within the remit of their area of responsibility. When evaluating initiatives and challenging new proposals, they must have the ability to consider what decisions will mean for staff, pupils, the short and long-term budget, curriculum planning and recruitment.
- A named governor / trustee must be able to commit the time required to undertake their role effectively as well as the willingness to further develop their skills and knowledge through CPD both training and research.
There's no doubt in my mind regarding the value the work carried out by named / link governance can bring to a school and, by considering the principles I've detailed, you will ensure that their contribution will be effective and support improvement.
SSS Author & Former Headteacher