History of School Governing Bodies
- In the middle ages most schools were connected with ecclesiastical foundations but from the sixteenth century onward more and more schools were founded by town or city corporations or individuals by means of endowment or subscription. In these ‘public’ schools it was usual to have a group of governors, managers or trustees to oversee the conduct of the School.
- In the early nineteenth century, elementary schools frequently depended on one patron – usually a clergyman in the case of National Society schools. However, when making grants to these schools, the central authority preferred to deal with a group of managers and it became usual for them to have some control over the secular curriculum, while the church retained control over the religious teaching. The 1870 Education Act empowered (but did not require) the boards of non-church schools to delegate their responsibilities to a body of managers. Some did, some did not. This freedom to choose was allowed to continue by the 1902 Education Act, although secondary schools were expected to have governing bodies.
- By the late 1970’s the governing body’s school management role consisted of elaborating the objectives of the school, making primary decisions regarding the development of the school curriculum and the distribution of resources, and secondary decisions relating to the day to day administration. In practice, much of this was devolved to the head teacher.
- More recently the Government document Better Schools proposed that ‘the governing body should be able to determine, with the head teacher, the main policies and lines of development of the school’, and should have ‘a voice in the appointment and dismissal of the school’s staff, the aims and objectives of the curriculum and the principles governing discipline; it will be informed of the cost of maintaining the school and given control over expenditure on certain items (Gillard,1987).