Supporting Schools & Parishes
Introducing Foundation Governors
The very first primary schools were church schools. A new charity was founded in 1811 called the National Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in the Principles of the Established Church. Through its grants parish schools were established up and down the country. They carried the main burden of primary education in this country. Primary schools supported by rates and general taxation did not come into being until several decades later.
Today, about a sixth of primary pupils attend church schools. Church schools are an intrinsic part of the state education system but the church retains various rights and privileges, including that of appointing Foundation Governors.
Foundation Governors are appointed by the Church at parish or diocesan level. They are full members of the Governing Body of the School and, like all governors, are expected to play a full role in the life of the Governing Body together with its committees etc.
The Instrument of Government of every Church of England School contains a common Ethos Statement:
"Recognising its historic foundation, the school will preserve and develop its religious character in accordance with the principles of the Church of England and in partnership with the Church at parish and diocesan level.
The school aims to serve its community by providing an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice. It encourages an understanding of the meaning and significance of faith and promotes Christian values through the experience its offers to all its pupils."
Nb. Some schools have added to this wording slightly
The school should also have a Trust Deed (though some have been lost in the mists of time) which describes the foundation character of the school.
It is the particular responsibility of Foundation Governors to uphold the foundation character and ethos of the school as set out in the Trust Deed and Instrument of Government.
Foundation Governors would normally be practicing Christians and regular and supporting members of the local Anglican church 1. It may be appropriate for the total number of Foundation Governors to reflect an ecumenical dimension and to include members in good standing of other local churches. It may also be helpful for a school sometimes to recruit Foundation Governors from a wider area, perhaps to ensure a wider perspective or range of skills. A measure of local discretion is appropriate.
The local church (PCC) or a Trust may appoint some foundation governors. The Diocesan Board of Education and Training appoints others after local consultation. The school has an Instrument of Government that sets out how many Foundation Governors the school has and by whom they are appointed.
Voluntary Controlled Schools
In Voluntary Controlled Schools no single group of governors is in the majority.
Voluntary Aided Schools
In Voluntary Aided Schools the governing body contains an overall majority of Foundation Governors. Under current legislation at least two of these Foundation Governors must be parents of children registered at the school at the time of their appointment. Those appointing or nominating Foundation Governors at Voluntary Aided schools need to be mindful of this requirement. The Clerk to the Governors will have up to date information over whether any new appointment/nomination currently needs to be from among the parents.
Foundation Governors of all schools now serve a term of office of four years.
Foundation Governors should be prepared to present the Diocesan Board of Education and Training's views to the governing body.2
Diocesan education officers offer regular opportunities for governor training in church school issues.
Foundation Governors are called to be "critical friends" of the school. Like all Governors they should be prepared to get to know the school and its concerns thoroughly and work with the headteacher and others in its effective management.
Through the appointment and contribution of keen and committed Foundation Governors, is one way the Church shows its commitment to church schools and makes a very substantial contribution to the education of young people in a parish. Becoming a Foundation Governor is seen to be a significant Christian lay ministry. PCCs and the local churches have a vital role in recruiting, encouraging and supporting Foundation Governors.
1 This really is a matter for local discretion, but "going to church" and "not being a notorious evil liver" would seem to be acceptable proxy indicators.
2 The wording here is important: it does not demand carte blanche acceptance of the Board's views, but simply that such views will be made known if requested.
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