When preparing for a school governor interview, its important to consider how you will demonstrate that you have the necessary skills, and that you’re already thinking about the contribution you can make to the school as part of the team. In addition, to ensure the role of a school governor is right for you, the interview can be a useful time to seek clarification on certain aspects of the position, how it fits into school life, and what support you’ll be provided with.
To aid your preparation, here’s 10 questions to ask in your interview, to help you determine whether you and the school are the best fit for each other, as well as to help the interview panel understand why you want the role and why you’re a worthy candidate.
1. How is the board structured?
This may be a question you’ve already researched before applying, but particularly when considering the role of a governor at a multi-academy trust, governance can be quite complex as those working across individual academies will also feed into trustees. Governors of maintained schools are likely to have more involvement with the local authority. Knowing who you’ll be working with, who you will be holding accountable, and who you’ll be reporting to will help you get off to a good start.
2. What training will I receive to help me as I start in the role?
If you’re new to being a governor, it is a reasonable expectation that the school you’re joining will need to help acclimatise you to the role, as well as the school, starting with an induction. This might happen over a few days or weeks, but its helpful to know what you can expect when you start. Thinking in the longer term, its also useful to get an understanding of the opportunities to develop new skills in the role and improve on those skills you’re bringing. If the school offers these opportunities, you know that they value and are prepared to invest in your development.
3. Will support be available from a more experienced governor?
Asking about the potential mentorship from a colleague on the governing board can help set your mind at ease that someone will be on hand to help answer your questions and concerns, and offer you guidance as you take on this new role. Oftentimes schools will have this kind of system in place but if not, now is a good time for the panel to let you know what an alternative structure might be.
4. What do you expect from me as a school governor?
You might think this has been clearly laid out in the job description, but think beyond that. This is about trying to get a sense from the interview panel what is important to them as senior leaders or fellow governors, and how they see you fitting into the team. Are they looking to make the most of your unique skills, in need of someone with a critical eye, or seeking a valuable team player?
5. How do you see my skill set fitting in to the current governing board?
Similar to the question above, its useful to get an understanding of how you fit in and where you can make the most impact. The panel may have selected you for interview because you have specific skills or experience that can strengthen the current governing board and how it operates, or valuable insights you can bring to the school as a whole. With an understanding of this, you can be your most effective in thinking about how you will make your mark for the good of the pupils, and the wider school community.
6. How often are school governors’ meetings, and when are they?
This should be information you’ve already been provided with, but if not, now is a good time to ask. Understanding the time commitments for and around school governor meetings will help you plan how to fit these in around other commitments you have. Its also worth finding out what happens if you’re unable to make a meeting; how will minutes be shared? And with a greater focus on remote working in light of COVID-19, is the school planning to host more virtual meetings perhaps?
7. How does the school measure impact, and what is the school governor role in this?
Asking the interview panel about the school’s monitoring and evaluation system will help show that you’re really thinking about opportunities for improvement, methods for accountability, and how you can help make a difference. While the panel won’t have time to go into a lot of depth during the interview, they can at least give you a headline view of what is measured, such as value for money or pupil attainment, broadly how this is done, and how this information is used by governors for schools. Not only can this help you consider how you might make use of this data, should you make it into the role, but also gives you an indication of what the school’s priorities are that you will be supporting.
8. How is the quality of teaching assessed?
This is an important question to ask, and understand the answer to, because of how closely it is linked to pupil progress and attainment. This kind of assessment is likely to differ in each school depending on varying contexts and the needs of pupils. Analysing teacher performance will be an aspect of the school governor role, even though governors are likely to only spend a short amount of time listening to and watching lessons, for example during classroom walks, but getting a feel for how this is approached by leadership will help you understand how teaching fits into the wider school strategy.
9. Ask the panel about the school’s progress in an area of interest for you, or on an element of the school improvement plan or from an Ofsted report.
By asking a question that directly relates to improving outcomes, you will be demonstrating that you’re already familiar with what the school is working on, having read documents that are available for you through the school website, and are interested to know more about this. Choosing a particular area, for example SEND provision for pupils or teachers’ subject knowledge enhancement, will allow for a more helpful and considered conversation of this nature during interview, and can then be followed up and expanded on further should you successfully enter the role.
10. How is information about school funding and financial management presented to governors, and how often does the school business manager join school governors’ meetings?
Effective financial oversight is a crucial element of the school governor role. To determine whether funding is being well spent and usefully allocated, governors for schools must have regular access to spending reports, and the outcomes of these financial decisions. Being able to meet regularly with the school business manager, alongside the senior leadership team, can help governors gain a clearer understanding of why and how spending decisions are made. By understanding the different priorities, governors and leaders can make better decisions together.
If you want to be a successful school governor and leave a lasting impact, it's essential you keep up-to-date with the most effective solutions to help raise standards of education in your school. To learn more about effective governance and leadership strategies, why not meet with experts by booking your place on a conference dedicated to the subject?
Find more advice and guidance in our IG Schools Governance and Leadership Handbook.