The role of governors in schools – and how parents can get involved

Parental Engagement Parents
23 November 2021
Nina Sharma
Nina Sharma is the Senior Policy and Information Officer for the National Governance Association. 
As a national charity giving those with a parenting role a voice in education and representing parent views at local, regional and national government levels, Parentkind recognises the essential part that governing boards play in engaging parents with school life and education, to support better outcomes.

We have been thrilled to collaborate with National Governance Association on the new guidance — Engaging with parents & carers: a guide for governing boards. The guidance gives crucial advice on effective governance when it comes to engaging with parents and carers. It presents stakeholder engagement as integral to school success and parents as key stakeholders who offer valuable insights, additions and benefits. With this resource and support, governors can consider how to effectively implement a policy and strategy in their schools. In so doing, they will reap the enormous benefits that a diverse, included and engaged parent voice will bring to education, to school and community life and to meeting the full potential of all young people.

Senior Policy and Information Officer, Nina Sharma from the National Governance Association talks about the role of governing boards in schools and how a positive parent-school relationship can add to the success of the school.

The role of governors in schools – and how parents can get involved

As a parent or carer, you are hugely important to your child’s education and personal development. Engaging with your child’s school will benefit their education and provides the opportunity for you to share what’s going well and what needs to be improved.

What governing boards do

Governing boards form part of the leadership team of the school. Their role is to set the long-term vision for the school – what your child will leave the school knowing and having done. They support and challenge the headteacher to make sure that the school is successful for all pupils. This includes ensuring that the staff, money and premises are well cared for and best used.

The board is made up of local people – including parents – who come together to oversee the school and to keep it on the right path. Think about their role as being eyes on, hands off’.

You may not see the governing board as often as you see teachers, support staff or the headteacher but their role is still important to the success of the school.

At the National Governance Association (NGA) we’re keen for parents and boards to engage more with each other. Through our visible governance campaign we’re shining a light on the contribution that governors make to schools.

The importance of listening to parents

We think that boards engaging with parents is vital to the success of the school and we encourage boards to ensure the voices of parents – as well as pupils and staff – are heard.

There are lots of benefits to parents engaging with their child’s school and developing a positive relationship with governors can be a key part of this. By getting to know parents, the board gets to know the school’s its strengths, weaknesses and its community.

Engaging with governors isn’t about who does what or how they do it. Instead, it’s about helping the people who make the decisions to shape the what and the why of the education and experience offered to all children.

You can talk to governors about things like:

  • Your views on changes that have taken or are taking place
  • Challenges and opportunities facing families and the community
  • Your views on what the school is doing well or needs to do better
  • How topics like mental health, behaviour or the curriculum affects your child

Governing boards can often be seen as somewhere to raise a complaint or an anonymous group of people but so much more can be achieved by parents and boards positively working together.

How do boards engage with parents

How the board engages with parents will be different from school to school. Schools depend on the rich and diverse parent voice to ensure that children and young people can flourish.

We recently asked governors across England how they engage with parents. We found that boards mostly:

  • Look at the results of parent survey – this provides essential information about parents’ views
  • Update parents about the board’s work through the school website
  • Provide support for parents in engaging with their child’s learning at home

The pandemic has affected so much of the education sector and unsurprisingly, the way boards have been able to engage with parents has been impacted. Some of the governors we surveyed said they would have attended parents evenings and meeting with the parent forum or council, if not for the pandemic.

Here are some ways you can engage with your child’s school when you have the opportunity:

  • Respond to the surveys that are released
  • When attending parent’s evenings, school performances and other events that invite parents to attend, take the time to speak to school governors
  • Consider putting yourself forward for election as a parent governor
  • Let the school know what support would be beneficial to help your child’s learning, wellbeing, and experience

Parent governors

Parents can also be part of a governing board as a parent governor. Parents are an important part of boards because they add different views and experiences to the board’s discussions. Because you have a child at the school you have knowledge and an insight on the school which others without that experience do not.

An elected parent is expected to use their own judgement to govern. Parentkind’s page on parent governors provides information about how you could make an impact on a governing board.

Working with Parentkind

Parentkind’s Blueprint for Parent-Friendly Schools emphasises the positive links between the parent and school relationship. Parentkind’s research has found that because of the pandemic, parents are more confident in understanding what their child is learning and have an improved level of communication between the home and school relationship.