Why do we have a Governing Body?
The college cannot operate without a Governing Body – this is set out in law. Technically (legally) the college is a Corporation and governors are members of the Corporation. Details of who can serve as a governor, how many governors (or ‘members’) there can be and how they are appointed are all set out in statute (the Instrument and Articles of Government). A committee of governors, called the ‘Search and Governance committee’, advises the Corporation about who should be appointed. A term of office is a maximum of 4 years. Search and Governance committee looks at the contribution a governor has made and decides whether it will recommend that a governor is reappointed when his or her term of office has come to an end. It also recommends new governors when needed. The minutes of the committee are open for anyone to read.
Stockton Riverside College has 19 governors, 13 are from outside the college and then there are 3 staff governors, 2 student governors and the Principal. The Chair and Vice-Chair of the Corporation are elected every four years by the governors (subject to an annual review).
Governors are ordinary people who volunteer to do the job. They do not receive any payment for being governors. The usual reason people state for becoming a governor is to ‘give something back’. Governors think the college does good work in helping people live better and more fulfilled lives and by becoming a governor they are able to support the community and the area they live in.
Governors are interested in the views of staff and students and in their welfare. They meet senior staff regularly at meetings and get the chance to talk to other staff at events like the staff seminar and student performances. The Clerk (who organises the business of the Corporation and takes minutes or notes of meetings) will help you if you need to contact a governor, perhaps because you think that you can make use of a governor’s expertise or contacts in a particular area.
What does the Governing Body do?
The Corporation is not responsible for the management of the college. The college has a Principal and managers to carry out that function. The day to day operation of the college is the responsibility of the Principal who is ultimately responsible to the Corporation for putting its plans and directions into operation.
You will often hear it said that the Corporation operates at a ‘strategic’ level – this means that it looks towards the future and makes its decisions based on a good understanding of external and internal trends and data. It has some goals it wants to achieve and these are set out in documents like the Strategic Plan.
Governing Body meetings involving all governors are held six times a year, but in addition there are several committees and task and finish groups that meet regularly. Most governors serve on one or more of these. Governors rarely need to take a formal vote with a show of hands. Instead, an issue is debated and governors move towards agreement.
The Corporation has a special relationship with some senior managers. The Corporation decides which positions will be ‘senior post holders’ and it interviews and directly appoints these people. There are currently four senior post holders – the Chief Executive and Group Principal, the Group Executive Director Quality and Standards, the Group Executive Director Planning and Infrastructure and the Group Executive Director Finance. Only the Corporation has the power (authority) to appoint, discipline or dismiss them. This gives senior post holders some independence. The Corporation decides the pay and conditions of service of the senior post holders and also of the Clerk to the Corporation.
Other responsibilities of the Corporation are:
- Deciding what kind of educational services the college offers, setting the college’s aims and watching over its activities;
- Approving the college’s quality strategy;
- Making sure that the college’s resources are used efficiently and effectively and that means not only how it spends and invests its money, but also applies to its staff, buildings and equipment. The Corporation must make sure the college does not become bankrupt and that its money and property are looked after properly;
- Governors must approve the budget plan that sets out how much the college will earn in income and how much it will spend in one year;
- Setting a framework of general rules for the pay and conditions of service for staff.