New NGA guide encourages governing boards to get the right people around the table


Getting the right people around the table is one of the eight elements of effective governance, and to support governing boards to fulfil this aim, National Governance Association (NGA) has updated and relaunched its well-received guide the right people around the table.

There are an estimated 250,000 people volunteering as school governors and trustees in state-funded schools in England – the country’s largest volunteer force. Despite this, in the annual school governance survey 2017, almost a third of respondents reported that their governing board has two or more vacancies whilst 56% respondents said they found it difficult to recruit. Supported by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) and Academy Ambassadors, the right people around the table seeks to support governing boards in recruiting and retaining skilled governors or trustees.

With practical guidance and suggestions of good practice for the recruitment of governors and trustees, the right people around the table covers the recruitment cycle from evaluating the current board and attracting volunteers to making the appointment and induction training. It signposts to further tools and resources, and highlights how Inspiring Governance can support the recruitment process including the ability to search for volunteers based on their skills and the free training and support provided to new appointees by NGA.

Five short chapters cover:

  • Evaluating: skills, composition and current practice
  • Recruiting: attracting good candidates
  • Appointing: interviewing and references
  • Inducting: training and support
  • Succession planning: moving on and ensuring leadership      

The right people around the table emphasises that governing boards should carry out a skills audit to identify its strengths and any gaps to fill, states the importance of providing high-quality induction training for new recruits, and highlights the need for governing boards to undertake succession planning. The guide also asks governing boards to consider whether they reflect the diversity of their local community ahead of the launch of Everyone on Board – a joint campaign from NGA and Inspiring Governance which seeks to increase diversity on governing boards.

The guide is designed to complement Inspiring Governance – a free online recruitment service connecting volunteers interested in serving as governors and trustees with schools who are looking for new recruits. The Department for Education fund the service, which is run by the charity Education and Employers in partnership with the National Governance Association.

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governance Association, said: “Good people are at the heart of good governance. This guide is the most important resource we have on the topic of recruitment and induction. We need to keep focusing on recruitment, succession, training and relationships because the work of governing boards largely depends on how well they work as a team. When it works, the governing board is dynamic, diverse and productive and efforts are directed towards school improvement. This guide clarifies what the expectations are for induction and development in the pursuit of improving the educational standards and wellbeing of children and young people.”

Nick Chambers, Chief executive of Education and Employers, said“In the new era of school governance, Inspiring Governance seeks to provide a steady pipeline of skilled and experienced people willing to govern our schools. This guide provides clear and practical steps to help build stronger governing boards and highlights the wealth of support available along the way, including from Inspiring Governance. Hundreds of thousands of individuals volunteer their time, free of charge, to provide leadership and accountability within our schools. But it is our collective responsibility to ensure they are supported. This guide strengthens the recruitment process of governing bodies across the country, and so underpins the success of all our schools.”

Malcolm Trobe CBE, Deputy General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “This is an invaluable guide on how to build a governing body with the right blend of knowledge and skills to contribute to a school’s success. Schools need governing boards which are able to support, scrutinise, advise, and offer a fresh perspective to the leadership team, and we fully endorse this clear and practical guide to getting the right people around the table.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT said: “Governing boards are made up of volunteers and the importance of the work they do on behalf of the education system cannot be overstated. It’s critical that they are trained and prepared for this important role and to understand their responsibilities and we believe that such training should be mandatory and funded by the government. The time, effort and engagement of these individuals is essential for maintaining and improving school standards. This document is an excellent resource for schools to draw upon. It sits neatly alongside the joint ‘What to expect’ guidance we've produced. Taken together these two documents outline the positive and proactive partnership necessary to lead schools effectively and help to define the distinctive roles of governors and school leaders.”

Kirsty Watt, Head of Academy Ambassadors said: “Strong governance has never been more important and it is good to see all schools professionalising their governing bodies. The new NGA guide is a helpful tool to recruit the right people to the right places.”

Sir David Carter, National Schools Commissioner said: “It is important that we are able to recruit and train the right people with the right skill set, knowledge and experience to ensure that there is effective and confident leadership.”

Lord Agnew Kt DL, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System said: “Having the right people around the table is essential for effective governance. The two competency frameworks we published for governance and clerking in 2017, together with the new governance and clerking training programmes we are funding, support boards in achieving this by identifying and building specific skills that are needed. I would encourage all boards to use the frameworks when looking to enhance and strengthen their governance.”

Access the right people around the table here.