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Council - Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does the Council of Cheltenham College differ from a Board of Governors?

In many respects, it doesn’t.  The ‘Council’ is simply the name given to the governing body of College by the Cheltenham College Act 1894, the document that established the basis of our constitution as we know it today.  The ‘Council’ is a name that’s an important part of our heritage and we’ve continued to use it to this day. Unlike the Board of Governors of a Local Authority maintained school, however, Governors of independent schools are often charity trustees too, and that’s certainly the case for members of the Council of Cheltenham College.

  • Do the College and the Prep ‘share’ the Council or does each school have its own governing body?

The Council is the governing body of both schools.  Its membership includes specialists across the full 3-18 age range so there’s no bias towards either school.  The Council provides a strong link and source of balance between the two schools ensuring that the needs and aspirations of each are properly taken into account whilst at the same time providing leadership that has the interests of Cheltenham College as a whole (College and the Prep) at its heart.

  • Why a ‘President’ rather than a Chair of Governors?

Once again, this is purely a matter of tradition and is based on the terminology formalised by the Cheltenham College Act of 1894. The President of Council could also correctly be referred to as the Chair of the Board of Governors, or the Chair of Trustees.

  • How many members make up the full College Council?

The Council will normally include seven nominated members and between 10 and 18 co-opted members. ‘Full’ membership can, therefore, range between 17 and 25 members.

The seven nominated members are the nominees of the Cheltonian Association, the Cheltonian Society, the Common Rooms of both schools (though they may not be current members of teaching staff), and three top universities.

  • How are Council members recruited and selected?

The Secretary to Council maintains a ‘skills matrix’ that identifies the mix of skills and experience that the Council should ideally have represented by its membership.  Council members complete a ‘skills audit’ that allows the Secretary and the Nominations Committee to monitor and predict how well the membership actually reflects the ideal established by the skills matrix.  Where gaps, present or predicted, are identified, suitably experienced and qualified candidates are sought.  So for instance, at the moment, we are keen to identify lawyers and accountancy professionals who may be able to fill gaps created by retirements from Council.

  • How much are Council members paid?

Nothing.  Council membership is a substantial, but entirely voluntary, commitment.  In contrast to many paid non-executive directorships in the commercial world, members of the Council may only claim minor incidental expenses. 

So why do the members of Council take on the many responsibilities, not to mention the drain on their time, that go with the role?  The answer usually lies in the very real sense of satisfaction and purpose that accompanies being an important part of a great school like Cheltenham College: knowing that young people will thrive, in part because of your leadership input as a Council member, brings its own rewards.

  • How long do Council members serve for – is it a ‘job for life’?

Members are appointed for a term of three years and, subject to the approval of Council, that initial three-year term can be renewed twice.  The resultant maximum nine-year term of office means there’s always a healthy turnover of membership bringing a good balance of fresh ideas and energy alongside consistency and stability.

The President of Council, selected by the members, may serve for up to two terms of five years in addition to any period as an ordinary member.

  • What part does the Council play in the day-to-day running of the schools?

The day-to-day running of College is very much the work of the Headmasters, the Bursar and the remainder of the executive and management teams.  Council members take great care not to tread on the toes of the executive team and have little involvement in the daily general management of the schools.  The Council’s role is clearly focused on governance: setting the strategic direction, vision and values of College and then holding the executive team to account for their delivery.

  • Who is the Council answerable to?

To the Department for Education in its role as a board of school governors and to the Charity Commission in respect of its work as a group of charity trustees.

The Department for Education arranges for the inspection of registered schools in the UK. In our case that inspection is undertaken by the Independent Schools Inspectorate (ISI). Please click here if you’d like to see the latest inspection report for The Prep, or here if you like to see the latest inspection report for College.

  • How does the Council operate – is it all very secretive, and ‘behind closed doors’?

Generally speaking, not secretively at all.  Inevitably some topics discussed at Council meetings are sufficiently confidential that it would be inappropriate to publish Council minutes in detail - matters relating to staff remuneration would be a good example. However most Council business is not particularly confidential and John Champion, the Secretary to Council, will be happy to talk with interested parents/fee-payers about any non-sensitive issues currently on the Council’s agenda.