Governing bodies of all maintained Local Authority schools have a minimum of 7 members, made up of a number of different categories. There is no upper limit but they must include:

  • 2 elected parents
  • 1 member of staff
  • the headteacher
  • 1 Local Authority governor

They can choose the size and composition that suits their working arrangements (provided it complies with legal requirements). Not all categories appear on every governing body as they vary according to the category of school. Governing Bodies should review their effectiveness regularly including the extent to which their size and structure is fit for purpose and their members have the necessary skills. Academies have greater freedom to choose the composition of their governing body but they too must have at least 2 elected parent places.

Each category of governor has a different appointment or election procedure and there are some restrictions on who may serve in a particular category.

Co-opted governors may serve on governing bodies of all maintained schools. They are selected and appointed by the governing body and have, in the opinion of the governing body, the skills required to contribute to the effective governance of the school. They can include parents and members of the school staff but, when counted with the headteacher, staff representation must not exceed one third of the total membership of the governing body.

There are foundation governors at church schools and foundation schools that have a trust. They are appointed either by the relevant diocese (often from nominations from a local priest, vicar or PCC), or by the trust. In church schools, the vicar may be an ex officio foundation governor. They should have the skills to contribute to the effective governance of the school and seek to uphold the school's character including religious character where it has one.

The headteacher is a member of the governing body by virtue of their office but they can choose whether or not to be a governor. As a governor, the headteacher can attend all meetings ot the governing body and its committees. If they decide not to be a governor, they still have the right to attend all meetings, but cannot vote and their position cannot be taken by anyone else

Local Authority governors are nominated by the us but appointed by the governing body based on set criteria determined following a skills audit. There is 1 place for a Local Authority governor on every maintained school governing body. No one who is eligible to be a staff governor can be appointed as a Local Authority governor.

There must be a space for at least 2 elected Parent governors on all governing bodies of maintained schools and academies. Parent governors are usually elected from the parents of registered pupils at the school. Anyone who fits the definition of parent can be nominated to stand as a parent governor: "any individual who has or has had parental responsibility for, or cares or has cared for, a child or young person under the age of 18."

If there are more candidates than vacant places, an election will take place by secret ballot. If there is the same number of candidates as vacancies, then all candidates are elected unopposed. If insufficient nominations are received, a parent governor can be appointed by the governing body.

There are partnership governors only at foundation schools. They are appointed by the governing body from nominations received from the local community and parents of pupils at the school and they must have, in the opinion of the governing body, the skills needed to contribute to the effective governance of the school. They cannot be members of staff or parents of pupils currently attending the school, elected members or people employed by the LA in connection with its education functions.

There is just 1 place for a staff governor who is elected by secret ballot. They can be either a teacher or a member of the support staff and must be employed by the school or the LA to work at the school under a contract of employment. Staff governors cannot be appointed if there are insufficient nominations. They cease to hold office if they cease to work at the school.

In academies, some governors (usually the majority) are appointed by the academy trust. They may be called trust governors or another title chosen by the trust. Trust appointees may include staff and parents.

These can be appointed by the governing body to serve on one or more governing body committees, and may attend full governing body meetings. They are not governors, but the governing body may assign some voting rights to them in the committees on which they serve.

This is the legal document that records the constitution of the governing body of all maintained schools and the term of office for each category of governor as well as the name of the school. It can be reviewed or changed at any time by the governing body or the LA provided the correct procedure is followed.

Visit the School Instruments of Government page for further information.

Academies do not have an instrument of government. Each Academy Trust must have at least 3 members but there is no maximum that applies. The head/principal must be a governor and there also must be 2 elected parent governors. The Academy Trust may appoint as many members as it sees fit but no more than one third of the governing body can be members of staff. The Academy Trust can decide on who else will be part of the governing body and this make-up must be reflected in its Articles of Association (or in its Scheme of Delegation in the case of sponsored academies or multi-academy trusts).