Recruiting a governor in 2023?

Governors for Schools can help… 

Since 1999, Governors for Schools has supported schools to find skilled governors across England, extending our vital work into Wales in 2020. With over a third of schools in England having one or more vacancies on their governing boards, our work has never been more important. During 2022, we helped just over 2,000 volunteers join school boards, a number upon which we strive to build.  

We’ve refined our expertise in governor recruitment over the past 20 years and are continuing to improve how we support the sector. Our Trustee Recruitment Service launched in response to sector need, and our resources for schools have been created based on the needs and feedback of our volunteers. Working collaboratively with other governor networks, we have gained valuable insights into the sector, including the key challenges facing schools right now. As such, we can use this knowledge to appoint volunteers who meet your school’s needs. 

Some of the challenges facing school boards include a lack of governor diversity, limited succession planning, and skills gaps among members. Fortunately, Governors for Schools is on-hand to ensure the volunteers we find, meet your needs. 

Do you have challenges with… 

Board diversity? 

We encourage school governing boards to recognise the benefits of diversity and appoint governors from a variety of backgrounds. Diversity in terms of ethnicity, gender, and socioeconomic background ensures boards are reflective of the communities they serve. We work with schools to identify needs before we put forward volunteers. We also work with schools to showcase volunteers they may not ordinarily consider, such as younger volunteers under the age of 25. As demonstrated in our recent governor story with Will Bellamy, early-career volunteers can bring fresh and valuable perspectives to school boards. Sadly, sometimes age can be seen as a limiting factor in a volunteer, and we work with schools to show that it doesn’t have to be this way. 

Succession planning? 

Is your chair about to step down? Have you considered how you can maintain a strong leadership structure for your board? We ask prospective volunteers to share their leadership experience, ensuring we spot potential chairs and vice chairs at the application stage.  As you prepare to bid a fond farewell to your chair, we can help you find the best possible successor. We’ve also worked with the National Governance Association (NGA) on their report around finding a chair, which offers helpful guidance on succession planning. 

Skill gaps on your board? 

Are you confident that your board possesses all the skills it needs to support school leaders? Conducting a skills audit can help you identify skill gaps and address them by organising training or filling vacancies with the right volunteers. If you register a vacancy with Governors for Schools, we can screen volunteers for the skills your board needs. 

Location struggles? 

Some schools face geographic challenges when it comes to appointing members to a board. Fortunately, Governors for Schools is happy to support schools to source remote governors. There are many benefits to remote governance, and you can benefit from a wider talent pool. Read more about the benefits of remote governance on our blog

Do you need support recruiting a governor? Want to ask us a specific recruitment question? 

Register your vacancy with Governors for Schools and a member of our friendly team will be in touch to discuss your needs. We support with both governor and trustee recruitment. 

Sign up for National School Governors’ Awareness Day, and at 10am – 11am Governors for Schools will be hosting a bespoke session showcasing how we can help you recruit a volunteer governor or trustee in 2023. We’ll be taking questions live in the session, so don’t miss out. 

What Do School Governors Do?

With National School Governors’ Awareness Day taking place on 28th February, it seems appropriate to reflect on a question I am often asked. My friends, family and colleagues know I am a school governor, but most don’t have clarity on what that means: they don’t know; what school governors do, why governors exist, or what is expected of them.

I have been a governor for many years and have honed my elevator speech, in response the perennial question. Just in case I find myself in an express lift, I can now expound my role, and that of other school governors, in an economic four words. Governors, ensure through seeking assurance.

I realise that for some that requires a little further explanation, which I am happy to provide, but still insisting that these four words do very accurately describe what governance is all about. Governors are at times described as the guardians of their schools and academy trusts and the idea that we are guardians of all that our schools are and do is a good start point. We ensure, as governors and trustees, that our schools are providing the best possible learning and the best possible care for pupils, staff and our communities. The seeking assurance is crucial to understanding the governance role and is helpful when describing expectations to prospective governors. Seeking assurance describes the way in which governance operates and more importantly points to what we do not get involved in. Governance is strategic and effective school governance has an accurate strategic overview of the school and its work, achieved, not by getting operationally involved in the day-to-day working of the school, but through focussing on the big picture. The big picture should include assurance that pupils are making good progress in their learning, are safe, happy and developing as responsible young people ready being prepared for the next stage of their lives.

How we seek assurance is determined through the structures we have in place in governance and through our monitoring and evaluation of the school’s work and its impact. A number of governing bodies and trust boards now operate a flat structure, where the main board meets every half term and the agenda covers all elements of the school’s work that governance should have oversight of, including pupil progress, the curriculum, safeguarding, pupil attendance, staffing, mental health and well-being, premises issues and many more aspects that inform the strategic overview of school effectiveness. In many schools and most trust boards the workload is divided up and delegated to committees of governors. Committees should all have delegated terms of reference, detailing precisely what they do including any decision making that the board has given them the responsibility for. But the core task is the same; the committee ensures by seeking assurance.

There is an expectation on all governors and trustees that they regularly reflect on their collective and individual professional development (i.e. training) needs. This ensures they stay abreast of the aspects of the governance role that they need to focus on and are aware of the statutory framework that underpins much of the task of governance. Compliance, with the legal framework, is the backbone of governance and as with all other aspects of our role, our task is to seek assurance that our schools are compliant.

The education system in this country is more diverse than ever before, but whether we are governors in a maintained school, or in an academy trust, whether we are governors, directors or trustees, or operate at a local school level within a trust, governance is governance and whilst the scope may vary a little, the essence of governance remains the same. We ensure that our schools and trusts are providing the best possible learning and the best possible care, for all pupils. It is this modus operandi that allows to meet the expectations that government and demonstrates that we are collectively holding our schools to account.

By Steve Barker
Head of Governance Services – Strictly Education

Cortisol in the classroom: behaviours to look out for and how schools can help

If families are stressed, it will be having an impact on children in school.”

The cost-of-living crisis was recently identified as the leading cause of anxiety in young people. In this 3-minute video, Thrive’s Head of Partnerships, Lee Prichard, talks about the impact a cortisol increase can have on pupils’ behaviour in the classroom, the signs to look out for, and how educators can help.

Press play below to get started.

Book onto Viv Trask-Hall’s one-time-only, hour-long webinar: ‘Cost-of-living anxiety: The signs to look out for (and how you can help)’

Getting involved – how the chair can motivate governors to participate

By: Linda Waghorn, Governance Consultant

Governance is, above all else, a collective responsibility and therefore the process of governance requires all governors/trustees to engage and participate, for it to be effective.

I am currently the Chair of a Local Governing board at a school in West Sussex that is part of a small local Multi Academy Trust. In the past I have chaired governing boards in a variety of other settings and all chairing roles I have held have taught me that a vital aspect of my role, and of chairs in all boards, is to ensure they are inclusive of all governors and encourage and promote active engagement in the process of governance and of course full participation in all meetings.

The starting point is always to ensure that anyone considering becoming a governor fully understands what they are volunteering for: volunteering to become a governor is not about wearing a badge, it is about making a commitment to actively support and champion the learning and care of all children and young people in your school. Governors need to understand what governance is and, of course, what it is not. Many aspiring governors are driven by the desire to ‘give something back’ providing an excellent platform on which to build a deeper knowledge of the role.

I have always made a point of talking to prospective governors and explaining what governance is, the expectations that we have of each other and those that statutory regulations impose on us. I am also keen to outline how much time we are asking governors to give to the role. Dependant on the way the governing board is structured can make a difference to the time commitment we ask governors to sign up to but in a typical set up, where there are no committees, and the full board meets every half term, we are talking of a time commitment, involving reading papers, attending meetings, visiting the school, and accessing training for the role of roughly 35-50 hours a year.

I am always keen to work with my vice-chair and other governors to support the induction of new governors. It doesn’t need to be a formal mentoring scheme, although I have seen these work exceptionally well in many schools that do operate them. It can be less formal and simply be another relatively new governor who can support and encourage them to get involved right from the start of their term of office. Most governors serve a four-year term of office and doing all that we can, at individual board level, to ensure new governors quickly ascend what can appear to be a steep learning curve, is a worthwhile investment in pushing effective governance forward.

Apart from making it clear that our board expects all governors to engage in training to ensure their professional development, as a governor, equips them for their role, I try to ensure that our meetings are clear, the agenda maps out the meeting effectively, and that minutes provide an accurate summary/overview of what has been discussed and agreed. We try to avoid abbreviations and acronyms, which education is peppered with, or at least explain what they mean.

Every board is made up of unique individuals and it is important to develop an understanding of everyone’s strengths and development needs to ensure the board works collectively as a team. I encourage all governors to ask questions; not only is this the best demonstration of our accountability function as governors, but it is a great opportunity to deepen governors’ learning about their school and the broader educational and governance landscape. I’m not the sort of chair who revels in putting individuals on the spot, but I ensure I am aware of who is and who is not participating and will have what I hope is a quiet and sensitive word, outside of the meeting, to explore what we can do to make them feel comfortable and confident in asking questions and participate fully. For me a key element of this is to focus on the culture of the board itself. How welcoming do we appear to new governors, do we ensure they are warmly welcomed and at initial meetings does the chair explain, for the benefit of new governors, what is being discussed and why.

I see my role, as chair, very much as an enabler or facilitator. Yes, I lead governance within my school but in meetings, whilst I lead the agenda and ensure a smooth-running effective meeting, I try to not lead the discussion and assert my view first. I try to encourage others to contribute to open and frank discussions, so that a full spectrum of views and opinions is considered, which will inform more effective decision making and ultimately more effective governance. I want every board member to feel that they play a vital role in our governance team.

Linda Waghorn – Governance Consultant