The Role of Foundation Governors in a Diocesan school
The governors of a Catholic school work as a team, in close co-operation with the headteacher and all the staff. All governors and staff contribute to the Catholic nature of education in the school as set out in its Instrument of Government and its mission statement. However, successive Governments have recognised the responsibilities of the trustees of Catholic schools and the rights of the Catholic community as a whole to ensure that the long-term future of Catholic education is secure. The trustees of Catholic schools have therefore the legal right to appoint an overall majority of the governors, who are known as foundation governors. In addition to all the other legal responsibilities of the governing body, foundation governors are appointed specifically to ensure:
• that the religious character of the school is preserved;
• that the school is conducted in accordance with its trust deed;
• that the religious education curriculum is in accordance with the bishop’s policy for his diocese, based on the Bishops’ Conference Curriculum Directory.
Diocesan foundation governors are, therefore, appointed personally either by Bishop Patrick or the religious order to represent their interests and those of the Catholic community as a whole. They may be parents, parish clergy or members of the local parishes. Under the 1998 Education Act, the bishop or the religious order are required to appoint a number of parents of children in the school as foundation governors. These parents are not parent governors. Parents and others appointed by Bishop Patrick or religious order as foundation governors represent those who appoint them and they have a legal duty to protect their interests. If they fail to do this, they can be dismissed.
Foundation governors play a leading role in the Catholic community; they collaborate with the bishop in his ministry in education. It is, therefore, important for them to be prepared to:
• know and implement the bishop’s policies on education including religious education;
• understand and promote the distinctive nature of Catholic education;
• act for the good of Catholic education as a whole within the diocese;
• secure the long-term future of Catholic education.
In fulfilling these duties, they have a right to be supported by the Catholic community in general and by Bishop Patrick and the staff of the Diocesan Education Service in particular.
The Governing Body of a Catholic school
All governors of Catholic maintained schools have legal rights and responsibilities which ensure that they safeguard and promote their school’s denominational character. These rights and responsibilities have been recognised by the Government as central to the continuing success of Catholic education. The following are key aspects of the governing body’s legal duties in diocesan voluntary aided schools relating to their religious character.
Appointment of teachers
The governors of Catholic schools appoint and employ their own teachers. Whenever possible, they should appoint Catholic teachers in order to maintain and promote the Catholic ethos of the school. Whilst acknowledging that teachers of other denominations and faith also make a valuable contribution through their support of Gospel values and by promoting the school’s mission statement.
The preservation of the quality and distinctive nature of our Catholic School depends on the faith, practice and commitment of the teachers in our schools. The appointment of staff is therefore a major responsibility of the foundation governors and the governing body.
The appointment of senior staff is of such importance in our schools that Bishop Patrick has adopted the guidance issued by the Bishops of and England Wales in 2003 concerning the selection of leaders for Catholic Schools as diocesan policy:
“The posts of Headteacher, Deputy Headteacher and Head or Coordinator of Religious Education are to be filled by baptised and practising Catholics”
The governors of Catholic voluntary aided schools are responsible for drawing up their own admission policy in accordance with diocesan guidelines and in consultation with the local authority and other schools in the authority. This enables governors to admit pupils first and foremost on religious grounds.
Catholic Education and the Common Good
The governors of our Catholic maintained schools are responsible for policy relating to the secular and religious education curricula. This ensures that the whole curriculum of the school is taught in the light of Gospel values and actively promotes the spiritual and moral development of the pupils. Foundation governors have special responsibility for the religious education curriculum and have a duty to ensure that it is in line with our bishop’s policy.
Because of their important role in Catholic education, all governors of Catholic schools are partners in the Church’s mission in education, generously devoting their time and expertise for the good of the young people in Catholic schools and in support of their parents. That partnership is one of the great strengths of Catholic education.
Besides being at the heart of the Church’s mission in education, Catholic schools and colleges are an integral part of local and national educational provision. By their example in running their own schools and in their relationships with other schools in the area, the governors of our Catholic schools are a witness to Christ in society. They have a duty to promote the common good in education, the good of all, as well as that of their own schools. They do this by:
• promoting the understanding that education is concerned with the development of the whole person;
• making the education of the poor and the disadvantaged a priority, even if this may affect the rating of a school in league tables;
• respecting the needs of other schools to attract able pupils and helping those struggling to improve;
• promoting the value of teaching as a vocation and as an important ministry within the Church;
• ensuring that teaching and support staff are valued for their contribution to the good of the community;
• supporting financial policies which are equitable and which allocate funds on the basis of need;
• sharing resources and expertise with those who are less fortunate.
Governors of diocesan schools and all those involved in Catholic education today are called to share Christ’s teaching of love for one’s neighbour with those beyond the school gate. They are called to be both the leaven in the bread and the beacon on the hilltop.