The governing bodies of all Catholic voluntary aided schools are responsible for the arrangements and conduct of elections for parent and teacher governors.
The instrument of government of the school prescribes the number of governors required in each category.
By virtue of Regulation 18 of the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007, SI 2007/957, each voluntary aided school must have at least 2 foundation governors who are eligible for election or appointment as parent governors. (A parent is eligible for election or appointment if he is a parent of a child at the school, a parent of a former pupil, or a parent of a child at or below compulsory school age.) For this reason, there will be fewer positions for elected parents than on the governing body of community or foundation schools of similar size and character.
The governing body does not have the power to vary an instrument of government without the approval of the Archbishop, the school's Trustees, and the local authority. Any governing body with reason to believe that its instrument should be varied, for example, following a change of trusteeship, or a significant change in the number of pupils on roll is requested to contact the Diocese for advice.
The governing body has a duty to fill vacancies to elected positions without reasonable delay.
A parent governor is not required to resign from the governing body when his or her child leaves the school and may complete the remaining term of office. A teacher governor, however, must resign when he or she leaves the school.
2 Statutory Responsibilities on the Governing Body.
In relation to parent governor elections, the law requires the governing body to
inform all parents of registered pupils at the school of the vacancy, that they are entitled to stand for election and be given the opportunity to do so.
decide, where necessary, who is 'a parent' of a pupil at the school
determine qualifying dates (e.g. final date for nominations, ballot papers to be returned, etc.)
provide an opportunity for postal voting.
hold the election by secret ballot
2. The governing body may not impose any requirements as to the minimum number of votes to be cast for any candidate.
3. Guidance for Governing Bodies.
Delegation. The governing body may delegate aspects of the conduct of the election of parent governors to the headteacher, or other responsible members of staff. If so, the exact terms of the delegation should be made clear. Overall responsibility, however, remains with the governing body.
Timing of elections. There is no provision for holding an election in advance of the occurrence of a vacancy. Where the term of office of an elected parent governor falls at the end of a school year, the election should be held in the autumn term, preferably before the first full meeting of the governing body. At other times, the election should be held as quickly as possible, but if the vacancy falls in the second half of the summer term, consideration should be given to holding the election over until the new school year to allow for the participation of new parents/teachers. Sufficient time should be allowed for information to circulate and ballot papers to be returned. The aim should be to complete the exercise within a month, allowing at least seven school days for receiving nominations and ten school days for the return of ballot papers.
Eligibility of parents. Any person who is the parent of a registered pupil at the school has the right to be advised of the vacancy for parent governor, invited to stand for election and the right to vote. This need not be a person with whom the pupil normally resides. Whilst there is no obligation on the school to search exhaustively for every person who might be eligible, the governing body cannot rule ineligible any person known to be a parent. The governing body is not permitted to place any additional bars to eligibility other than those provided for in schedules 1 and 6 of the School Governance (Constitution) (England) Regulations 2007. The governing body may wish to make this clear at the outset.
Pre-election publicity. Governing bodies are required to publish such information as may be available about forthcoming elections in the annual report to parents. Beyond this, all reasonable steps should be taken, including a letter by 'pupil post' to advertise the election and invite nominations. Schools are encouraged to circulate copies of the Diocesan Guidance on the Role of Parent Governor to all parents to give them an indication of what the role involves. Once nominations have been received, it is good practice to give election candidates an opportunity to circulate a mini 'curriculum vitae and manifesto' if they wish to do so. There is no requirement to do this, but the same opportunity must be offered to every candidate.
Nominations. The governing body must decide how nominations are to be presented. It is usual, but not mandatory, to require nominees to secure a proposer and seconder. Some require additional 'sponsors' to ensure that the candidate has a measure of support. Where participation has been low in the past, self-nomination may be acceptable. In any event, the governing body should secure written confirmation that the nominee is a firm candidate. Where the number of nominees is equal to or less than the number of vacancies, voting is not required.
Failure to fill the vacancy. If the number of parents standing for election is less than the number of vacancies, the number must be made up by parents appointed by the governing body. Ideally, any parent so appointed should be the parent of a registered pupil at the school. Where this is not possible the person appointed should be the parent of a child of school age, but may not be an elected member of the local education authority, an employee of the local education authority or the employee of the governing body of any school maintained by the local education authority.
4. Conduct of the Election.
The governing body should appoint a returning officer who may be the headteacher, the clerk to the governing body or the chairman.
The electoral method is usually 'first past the post'. Proportional representation is acceptable, but not recommended unless the governing body is confidently able to manage the complexities.
The governing body must decide whether each parent receives one ballot paper, or one ballot paper per child. The former is recommended as being fairer albeit more difficult to administer, unless the school maintains (as many now do) a data base of parents and those with parental responsibility. Each parent must receive at least one ballot paper. The ballot paper should list the candidates, preferably in alphabetical order.
Since the ballot must be secret, there can be no requirement for parents to sign the ballot paper. Since this opens the possibility of duplicate voting, some other safeguards may be required, for example by using the double envelope system. (Further guidance on this can be offered by the Diocese.)
The law requires governing bodies to provide the facility of voting by post. The governing body may also wish to permit voting by proxy, although the difficulties of administering this may outweigh the advantages.
The returning officer should be responsible for the count. It should take place at a time and place to be determined by the governing body. Candidates should be allowed to attend the count if they wish. In any event, the count should be witnessed by at least one other responsible person, who may be able to share the responsibility of deciding the validity of dubious ballot papers.
The outcome of the election should be notified to parents, the headteacher, governors, the clerk to the governing body, and the Diocese.
5. Teacher and Staff Governor Elections.
In general, the principles set out above for parent governor elections should be observed. Where there is more than one candidate, some schools arrange an informal hustings where the candidates might be asked questions, the role might be discussed and the opportunity taken to discuss the arrangements for communicating between governors and staff.
The timescale for teacher and staff governor elections is likely to be shorter than for parent governor provided that it is not so short as to deny potential candidates the opportunity to stand or those eligible to vote to do so.
The eligibility of supply teachers, part-time teachers, and teachers who work at the school but who are not employed by the governing body should be determined by the governing body and made clear. Teachers on secondment and study or maternity leave should also be given the opportunity to participate. A staff governor is a person who is elected as a member of the school’s governing body by persons employed to work at the school other than as teachers and who is him or herself such a person at the time. ‘Employed’ means employed under a contract of employment or a contract for services.
It is a courtesy and good practice to consult the professional associations represented in the school before determining or varying the arrangements for teacher governor elections.
For teacher and staff governor elections, it is normally better for someone other than a member of staff at the school to be appointed returning officer, for example, the clerk or a governor.