The suggested procedure below will apply any time there is a vacancy for chair or vice chair and annually at the beginning of the autumn term. Please note that under the Regulations it is for the governing body to determine the chair’s and vice-chair’s terms of office. Terms will be between one and four years.
Under regulations [School Governance (Procedures) (England) Regulations 2003] governing bodies can determine for themselves what arrangements and procedures to use in arranging chair and vice chair elections.* Previous regulations are therefore revoked other than the eligibility criteria which are that governors who are employed to work at the school, (either under a contract of employment or a contract of services) are not eligible to stand for election.
The governing body needs to decide on the process at the outset of their first meeting of the autumn term. It may just be a case of confirming the current arrangements but it is an opportunity to change them if the governing body wishes to do so. Therefore the governors must agree how they want to elect the chair and vice chair and for how long, as a first item on the agenda before actually electing them.
The clerk must act as chair during the election of chair (but does not have a casting vote) and must ensure that the meeting is quorate to carry out the election process (see guidance below). The clerk should remind governors of the criteria for eligibility. Those standing for election should withdraw from the meeting when a vote is taken. In case there is more than one nomination for each role, the clerk should remember to take some slips of paper to the meeting for organising the secret ballot.
If there is only one nomination a vote must still take place. The nominated governor must leave the room. The vote must then be held but it does not have to be a secret ballot. It can be an open vote i.e. show of hands.
If there is more than one nomination and following a secret ballot there is a tie governors should vote again and if it remains a tie, the candidates must draw lots.
Finally, announce who has been duly elected chair of the governing body. The newly elected chair then takes over for the election of vice-chair.
The DfE has advised that the Governing Body may reject all nominees for Chair if they choose. If the governing body has the quorum to elect the vice-chair they should proceed to do so.
If a governing body cannot elect a chair or vice-chair they must adjourn the meeting so that they comply with the requirement to elect a chair and vice-chair at the first meeting. They can, however, complete the agenda before adjourning, with the meeting being chaired by the previous chair or vice-chair, the new vice-chair or a governor appointed as chair for the purpose of the meeting, as appropriate. A further meeting date must be set for election of chair/vice-chair.
The School Governance (Procedures) (England) Regulations 2003 now state that the quorum for a meeting of the governing body and for any vote on any matter at such a meeting shall be a half of the current membership of the governing body (rounded up to a whole number).
The quorum is also explained at the top of your governing body membership list.
Governors are not able to vote in their absence (ie by postal or proxy vote).
The quorum is determined by the total size of the governing body as recorded on the instrument of government. Surplus governors ( and incidentally additional governors) are not recorded on the instrument and are therefore not included for purposes of determining what the quorum figure is. However, any governor, including additional and surplus governors, present at the meeting counts towards calculating if the meeting is quorate.
* Guide to the Law. Ch3, pg 1 para 2
Factors the governing body could consider in agreeing their own election process are:
● Whether written nominations are to be sought in advance of the meeting
● Whether a governor can stand for office if they are unable to be present at the meeting
● Whether nominations will only be taken at the meeting
● Whether a candidate will self nominate or be proposed (and seconded if wished) by other
● Whether there will be a secret ballot or a show of hands (and whether this would vary depending on the situation i.e. in all circumstances or only when there is more than one candidate)
● How the governing body would treat a tie in the votes – Would candidates have the opportunity to speak to the governing body about why they want to be Chairman and then another vote could be taken, for example, or would you toss a coin, or would you do something else? Although this is an unlikely scenario the procedure should accommodate all potential results.
● Whether a governor can be re-elected and whether there should be a limit to the number of terms a governor could serve.
● Succession planning (vice-chairman to learn the role and move up to chairman at a later date)
Please note that a governor who is paid to work at the school or is a pupil at the school is not eligible for the office of Chairman or Vice-Chairman.
What happens if no one comes forward?
You have a problem! Happily this is a very rare occurrence but if it were to happen then the only
course open is to ask whether a governor to act as chair for that meeting only.
The role of the chair and vice chair is important to the efficiency of the governing body, and act as liaison between the headteacher and the governing body. If, therefore, as clerk, you feel there is, or, is likely to be a problem regarding these appointments you should alert the School Governance Support or the Local Education Officer (LEO) who will be able to offer advise and support.
If the governing body fails to elect a chair and vicechair it cannot conduct its business and there is a breakdown in the way the school is governed the LA could intervene and remove delegated powers.