What is a link governor?

Although not a statutory requirement, most governing bodies have a link governor to act as a link between the school and LA to advise their governing body of training opportunities available and on topical developments within governance. LAs such as Barnet, Gloucestershire, Thurrock, Birmingham and Buckinghamshire provide advice on link governors on their websites. Most LAs will provide you with their own local guidance.

Generally, you may be responsible for

  • helping the governing body identify its training needs
  • encouraging individual governors to attend training courses and report back to the governing body
  • providing relevant information to the governing body about training matters
  • becoming a link for training and development between the governing body and the LA
  • helping new governors settle in and make them aware of training opportunities provided by the LA and others
  • encouraging all governors to become involved in the work of the governing body and the school
  • attending termly meetings organised by (some) LAs for link governors, at which will be given information about the training which is available, and an opportunity to share ideas and experiences with other link governors.

The term "link governor" is also used for specific subjects e.g. ICT, numeracy, literacy, RE, SEN, etc. Again, these are not statutory requirements, but are good practice.

Guidance is similar for all specific roles and is usually available from your LA and also on the internet. One example is provided by Cumbria but there are many more, which can easily be found by using a search engine such as Google.

It is of course, a matter for each governing body and headteacher to plan its own guidelines on the role that it expects the "specific subject" link governor to undertake. A good working relationship between the subject specialist within the school and the subject link governor will enhance the success of this initiative.

As a model, the subject link governor, in support of the subject co-ordinator or head of subject, could undertake some or all of the following:

  • Become informed about relevant documents and legislation; OfSTED criteria for evaluating the subject provision; local and national issues impacting upon the subject.
  • Liaise with the subject coordinator or head of subject to become informed about staffing arrangements and training; the condition and availability of resources; curriculum and timetable arrangements; special needs provision; reference to the school development plan; assessment and recording procedures for the subject; which visits and visitors are planned.
  • Establish and maintain effective lines of communication between the subject co-ordinator and the governing body; report back to governing body meetings.
  • Help to keep parents informed via the school prospectus, newsletter, annual parents report and meetings.

What does a numeracy/literacy governor do?

Your role as numeracy/ literacy governor means that you should take a special interest in the National Numeracy/ Literacy Strategy and help ensure numeracy/ literacy issues remain high on the school’s agenda.

You need to provide a link between the governing body, its committees and the staff, reporting to the governing body and/or its committees as agreed.

As numeracy/ literacy governor, you might

  • try to attend some of the in service training courses devoted to mathematics/ literacy
  • meet termly with the mathematics/ literacy coordinator to discuss how the strategy is going in the school
  • use termly visits to view the daily maths/ literacy lesson in the classroom
  • ask about resources allocated to numeracy/ literacy from the school budget
  • talk to the headteacher about school numeracy/ literacy issues
  • include a section in the Annual Governor’s Report to Parents on the school’s progress in putting the National Numeracy/ Literacy Strategy into practice
  • find out about any LAs linked to mathematics/ literacy and ask how governors can help
  • be involved in the school’s attempt to inform parents and involve them in their children’s learning of the subject.

Important hints for numeracy/ literacy governors

You should always remember that you are not acting as a teacher or an inspector but as a source of support and a critical friend to the school. If you are going to visit a mathematics/ literacy lesson, don’t forget the possible apprehension some teachers feel if someone watches their lesson.

You will need to be aware of the pressures that schools may feel in trying to put the Numeracy/ Literacy Strategy into practice. Remember that it will take time for new approaches to become established and not everything will work perfectly straight away.

Be aware also that some parents may be concerned about some of the changes: for example, that children do not start "vertical sums" until late Year 3 or early Year 4. You may be able to act as a buffer between anxious parents and teachers who are only just familiarising themselves with new ways of working.

Where can I get information on my role as a numeracy/literacy governor?

  • Most LAs provide training and information through their Governor Support services.
  • There are links to the Numeracy and Literacy sites on the Department website, which provide information on the Numeracy and Literacy strategies and the roles of those involved in their implementation.
  • There are lists of useful publications on the Standards site for Numeracy and Literacy.
  • An additional numeracy publication is available, free of charge, from PROLOG entitled Information for Governors - The National Numeracy Strategy (Ref: NNS7). This booklet gives information about the strategy as well as information on: training to support the strategy; support available to schools; the role of the governing body; and the role of the numeracy governor, including hints and tips.
  • An equivalent document was produced by the National Literacy Trust with support from the Department, called A Literacy Guide for School Governors, which gives information on the Literacy Hour and explains how governors can support their schools. (When you reach the Literacy Trust site, click on 'Site Index' and 'G'). NB. The document was produced in 1998 and many issues may have moved on since then.
  • Information about the Key Stage 3 National Strategy also provides a brief overview of English and Mathematics (plus Science, ICT and Foundation subjects), which are ideal "self-study" materials for governors.
  • You can also enter a general search through an external search engine e.g. google.co.uk, for numeracy or literacy governor, which will bring up several links to schools with their own definitions of the role of the numeracy/ literacy governor.

Although not statutory, what could the role of an SEN governor entail?

Being a special educational needs governor is about doing your best to make sure pupils with SEN get the help they need to access the curriculum and to participate fully in the life of the school. As an SEN governor, you are the link between the governing body and the school in relation to pupils with SEN. It's your role to help rasie awareness of SEN issues at governing body meetings and give up-to-date information on SEN provision within the school. You also hlep review the school's policy on provision for pupils with SEN and ensure that parents have confidence in this provision.

There's certain basic information that every SEN governor should know:

  • how the school identifies children with SEN - make sure you understand how the school identifies a pupil with SEN and what happens once a pupil has been identified;
  • how SEN money from LAs is allocated and spent - different LAs organise SEN funding in different ways. You should understand how your LA provides SEN resources and how your headteacher and governing body decide how these resources are spend for all pupils with SEN in your school;
  • the school's SEN policy - you should know your school's policy on SEN and make sure it's reviewed regularly. Regular reviews are vital to ensure that the SEN provision reflects the changing needs of the school, its circumstances, and the law; and
  • develop good relationships in the school - developing good relationships with the key people involved in the school is essential. It's particularly important to get to know the head and the SEN coordinator (SENCO).

Good practice checklist

  • Arrange class visits with the head/SENCO to gain an understanding of how your school delivers SEN provision.
  • Set up regular meetings with the SENCO.
  • Attend governing body meetings and take a central role in discussions about SEN.
  • Visit the school as often as you need to, to be able to stay informed and attend LA training for SEN governors.
  • Find out what links your school has with other local schools, SEN support services and parents.

Many LAs also have information available on SEN.

All of the above guidelines and information can be adapted for other specific roles e.g. health and safety governor.