What does a college governor do?
26th August 2021
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Drawn from a college’s local community, a college governor is someone who has a real interest in further education (FE) and training, as well as having the best interests of the college at heart at all times. In this important role, college governors are well positioned to make truly positive contributions to students.
College governors form part of a large volunteer force across the UK with the central aim of raising educational standards and pinpointing specific areas for improvement. They bring their expertise, skills and experience to a sixth-form college, helping shape the future direction of the institution.
Very much like a non-executive director sitting on boards, college governors oversee the operations of an FE institution, as well as the financial performance of the organisation. The best ones are committed, passionate in their role and are also undaunted when it comes to holding a college’s senior leadership team to account. Effective governance is an imperative for colleges if they are to be a successful organisation. A college governor is central to ensuring this becomes a reality.
Why become a college governor?
What’s in it for me, you may ask? Firstly, the contribution that would make as a college governor is invaluable. The role enables you to scrutinise a college’s performance, help shape a relevant and responsive college curriculum, and articulate the importance of a college’s ethos.
Although the role of college governor is unpaid, there are significant personal and professional benefits to taking this position. Becoming a governor provides not only plenty of opportunities to really shape your local community, the professional benefits gained from the role cannot be understated either. You will be able to develop leadership skills on the job, as well as upskilling and refreshing your knowledge in a vibrant and impactful environment.
Every year, 6,000 people become governors in the FE sphere in the almost 300 colleges in the UK. In England alone, 1.7 million students attend FE, sixth form and specialist colleges, underlining the huge influence and responsibility that college governors have.
With colleges preparing these students for progression to higher education, higher vocational education or employment. Surprisingly, the average age of a college student is 28 — learning never stops and that includes college governors. One of the most rewarding aspects of becoming a college governor is the position it affords you to give others a helping hand on their journey through life.
What training will a college governor receive?
As a new college governor, you will receive an induction designed to enable access to the basic tools and information needed to start the job. Included in the key responsibilities of the role of governor are financial monitoring of the college; dealing with teaching and learning and curriculum issues; being a part of strategic planning; the legal areas of safeguarding, equality and diversity; ensuring up-to-date health and safety legislation.
In addition, the AoC provides training materials for governors that are up-to-date resources that cover all aspects of governance. The 13 modules cover a wide range of topics, such as Working Relationships; The Process of Effective Governance; Collaboration and Partnerships; Curriculum; and Finance.
These resources are highly recommended. As the AoC states, these “are designed to help and support you in your role as a governor, and to increase the effectiveness of governing boards”.
What makes a good college governor?
College governors are expected to share their knowledge, ideas and enthusiasm within a forum of like-minded individuals. By using and sharpening those skills, you can make a tangible difference to the life chances of students. Colleges encourage governors from a range of backgrounds, including law, local government, construction, accountancy and education.
A good college governor should be ready to meet new challenges head on. By being fully informed and prepared in the strategic decision making of a college, governors are then able to contribute to the creation of the college’s vision and then help achieve this vision.
Given that college governor is a voluntary role, you’ll need to be able to juggle this with your wider commitments. You must be a driven individual who has good time management skills to get the most from the position.
Forming and strengthening relationships in the local community is another key aspect of being a college governor. The board of governors plays an important role in constructing relationships between the FE institution and a range of stakeholders, including: students, parents, carers, the local community, the local authority and employers. A key benefit of being a college governor are the transferable skills that are learnt on the job.
Aside from the strategic purpose of college governors, you must never lose sight of what should be integral to the role — giving individuals the opportunity to better their chances in life and hopefully helping them find a vocation, inner confidence that perhaps wasn’t there and the tools to go out into the world of employment.