As a governing board you must elect a chair and vice-chair of governors. Generally the elections take place at the first meeting in the autumn term, but it does not have to be the first item on the agenda. The election could be the last item, so that the present chair can conduct the meeting for which they have prepared and then a new chair can be elected. An election may also be required if the chair (or vice-chair) resigns, is removed from office, or their term of office as a governor or trustee comes to an end before the end of their period as chair.
In maintained schools the board must decide on the chair and vice-chair’s term of office before the election. Every governor is eligible for election as chair or vice-chair with the exception of the Headteacher/Principal, any governor who is also employed at the school, and any registered pupil.
The following is a recommendation only. There are currently no regulations to govern the election of chair.
It is good practice for the clerk to ask for nominations in advance of the meeting, ensuring that every member of the board is fully aware of the impending election and has an equal chance to consider standing.
Are governors able to nominate themselves, or should they be nominated by another governor (with the knowledge and agreement of the person being nominated)?
The board should also agree a timeframe, so that the candidates’ details can be included with the agenda for the meeting. Those standing should be given the opportunity to submit a statement in support of their candidacy, but may also be given the chance to speak at the meeting (with a time limit).
Term of office
The board should also consider for how many consecutive terms of office an individual may be the chair; the National Governance Association (NGA) recommends that no one should hold the position for longer than six years.
The Department for Education regulations allow maintained schools to operate with co-chairs; academy schools will need to check their articles, but there is nothing in the model articles which would preclude academies from having co-chairs.
If you are a Local Governing Body (LGB) within a multi-academy trust, the clerk should check that the Terms of Reference for the LGB allow for co-chairs, or ask the Trust Clerk if the Terms of Reference do not cover this area before proceeding.
Is the governing board happy to accept nominations for co-chairs?
In a co-chair model two individuals put forward one nomination, so the governors would cast one vote to elect both individuals, rather than choosing between the two.
How does the election process work?
The board will first need to agree that they are happy to adopt a co-chair model and be satisfied that it would not lead to any lack of clarity in leadership. It is possible to have a ‘solo’ chair nomination and a co-chair nomination in the same election. The board does not need to opt for only a co-chair model or only a solo chair model.
The two individuals wishing to stand as co-chairs put forward one joint nomination, so the board is voting for person A and person B as one entity.
Do we still need a vice-chair?
If you have co-chairs you still require a vice-chair.
Do the co-chairs each have a casting vote?
The position of chair only has one casting vote, which is shared by the two co-chairs.
The two individuals have one vote each as governors, but only one vote between them when using the chairs’ casting vote.
What happens if one of the co-chairs leaves?
If one of the co-chairs resigns, either from the role of the co-chair, or from the board as a whole, the other co-chair does not continue in post. A new election will need to be held. The same would apply if one of the co-chairs comes to the end of their term of office.
The remaining co-chair can stand again as a solo chair, or join forces with another member of the board to put forward a joint nomination with the new individual.
Is there anything to prevent two parent governors sharing the role of chair?
Two parent governors can share the role. There may be occasions when this means that both co-chairs would not be able to sit on a panel for a formal proceeding, as they may have prior knowledge of the issue.
- The clerk (or another) takes the chair and ensures there are enough people present at the meeting to conduct official business and make decisions (this is also known as quorate)
- Each nominated governor or trustee could be invited to speak to the board (with a specified time limit) setting out their reasons for standing. Alternatively candidates could be asked to submit a short written statement in support of their candidacy. All candidates must leave the room while a discussion and vote takes place. This should be the case even if there is a single nomination
- A vote by secret ballot takes place
- The clerk will count the votes and announce who has been elected as chair. The successful candidate will be invited to take the chair and will oversee the election of the vice-chair
- If there is a tie, the clerk does not have a casting vote. A second ballot could be held between any tied candidates. If their original statement was supplied as a written submission the tied candidates could be given an opportunity to speak to the board at this point. If a second ballot fails to resolve the issue, the tied candidates would have to draw lots
- If a candidate is not elected (or there are no nominations) then a governor elected for the purpose of the one meeting will chair the rest of the meeting and the election will appear again on the next Full Governing Body agenda
- The newly elected chair would conduct the election for the vice-chair, which could also be carried out by secret ballot, but in the event of a tie the chair would have a casting vote