Who governs our schools? NGA/TES 2016 survey of governors and trustees




Who governs our schools? Ellie Cotgrave, NGA's Research and Projects Manager, takes a preliminary look at the results of the 2016 NGA/TES survey of governors and trustees in the July/Aug edition of Governing Matters.

This year’s survey received 5,000 responses; thank you to everyone who took part. 40% of all respondents were male and 59% female (the remaining 1% either selected ‘other’ or preferred not to say). Breaking this down by role, 47% of chairs were male compared with 52% who were female. Interestingly, of the 182 headteachers who responded to this question, 72% were female and just 27% were male.

As was the case last year, 93% of respondents were white, which does not compare favourably with the national figure of 85% for adults. This figure suggests that governing boards do not always reflect the full diversity of their local community.

Half of respondents were employed full time, 23% part time and 6% were self-employed. Of those who are employed, 46% get paid time off work for governance and 18% get unpaid time off; both of these fi gures are higher than last year. Although 36% get no time off for governance, the vast majority (88%) of these hadn’t asked for it. Maintained school governors are legally entitled to ‘reasonable’ time off for public duties such as school governance, so do discuss this with your employer.

Just under a quarter of respondents were retired, which aligns with 22% being over 65. At the other end of the scale, only 11% of respondents were under 40.

In light of the government’s intention to remove the requirement to have elected parents on academy trustee boards, we asked whether respondents started governing as a parent governor/trustee. Overall, a fifth had been elected by the parent body for their current governing role, but 44% of respondents had started governing as a parent. A large number commented that they had since become a different type of governor, so it appears that the parent governor category provides an entry point for many who go on to govern long term.

When asked whether they would get rid of elected parents, 68% of those governing at academies said they would not consider it. Only 2% would defi nitely seek to do this, 8% would consider it and 22% didn’t know. NGA opposes this proposal, and you can fi nd out more about our campaign to Keep Parents Governing on our website.

Structures and collaboration

The proportion of respondents governing at academies jumped from 27% last year to 32% this year. 15% govern at a standalone academy (16% last year) and 17% govern in a multi academy trust (11% last year). Just 16% had made use of freedom from the national curriculum (30% in 2015).

In the past year, 14% of respondents had considered academy conversion but decided against it. The most common reason was that governors didn’t think there would be sufficient educational benefits (74% of this group). There is little appetite for universal academisation, with only 7% of all respondents supporting this. 6% of respondents govern in a local authority (LA) maintained federation – the same as last year – with the remaining 62% governing at a standalone maintained school. Only 35% of respondents reported being part of a teaching school alliance (TSA), although this is more than last year, and a further 14% have made use of services provided by one or more TSAs.

The governing board

The majority of governing boards (85%) have fewer than 15 members. 42% of respondents reported having no vacancies, with 28% having one and 20% two. Just over half found recruiting governors/trustees difficult, with this being felt most acutely in the South West. A greater proportion of respondents said they’d used external organisations than last year: 29% had used SGOSS (22% in 2015), and 5% had used the Inspiring Governors Alliance (3% last year). 47% formally interview prospective governors. NGA thinks this is good practice; for more information see our recruitment guide The Right People Around The Table.


The vast majority of respondents publish the full names of governing board members on the school website. Since September 2015 it has been a statutory duty to publish certain additional information about governors/trustees, but in many cases this is not happening. For example, only 42% of respondents currently publish governors’ meeting attendance records, and 52% publish information on who appointed each governor.

Around half of respondents have reviewed their governance this school year, with 14% having undertaken an external review. Three-quarters did not carry out performance management of governors by the chair or a third party, but 83% have carried out a skills audit. Within this group, 64% used the results to identify training needs, 64% to assign governors to committees, 54% for recruitment (42% two years ago) and 47% for succession planning.

Support for mandatory induction training remains high at 93%. The proportion of respondents supporting payment for governors is also similar to previous years at 29%. However, a slightly greater proportion support paying only chairs of governors: 27% (24% last year).


Over a third of respondents reported diffi culties when recruiting a headteacher, with little difference between primary and secondary schools. A greater proportion (42%) found it difficult to recruit to senior staff posts. However, as many people selected ‘don’t know’ when asked about headteacher recruitment, this may be because fewer governing boards have recruited a headteacher in the past year.

Half of all respondents had experienced difficulties with teacher recruitment. As was the case last year, the regions where this is most difficult appear to be London, the South East and the East of England. Among secondary respondents, the most challenging subjects to recruit for are maths (68%), physics (51%) and chemistry (39%). Only 17% of respondents said that none of their teachers teach subjects in which they are not a specialist, with 13% saying that most secondary staff teach a subject in which they are not a specialist, 21% some staff and 24% few staff.


Almost all respondents said their school offers a broad and balanced curriculum, although 41% of those governing at secondary schools had changed their curriculum offer in response to the EBacc and Progress 8. In many cases these changes have involved limiting pupils’ choice of GCSE subjects or reallocating curriculum time from optional subjects to English and maths. Three-quarters of respondents are confident that the system used to track progress since the removal of levels is robust.

Engaging with stakeholders

This year we introduced questions about stakeholder engagement. 70% of respondents had conducted a parental survey in the past year, 69% had updated parents via the school website and 65% had attended parents’ evenings. In terms of engaging with pupils, 71% had met with the pupil council, 52% had conducted a pupil survey and 47% had involved pupils in staff selection. 77% had met with staff on a particular issue, and 51% had conducted a staff survey.

Respondents appear to receive a lot of information about staff, with 85% receiving data on staff turnover, 73% summary reports on how performance reviews link to pay, and 69% data on staff absence. Only a quarter receive summary reports of exit interviews.

Author: NGA
Published: 29/09/2016, by Luke Manuel
Last Updated: 06/11/2018, by Luke Manuel