Three key issues are unifying the concerns of school governors and trustees across England, according to a state of the nation report from the National Governance Association (NGA).
Funding, support for pupils with special education needs, and staff wellbeing and workload emerged as the top issues when almost 6,000 school governance volunteers were asked about the pressures facing their school. As the people who are responsible for overseeing the strategic direction, educational performance and budget in schools, school governance volunteers are well placed to commentate on how education policy is affecting schools.
Over three quarters of respondents said that they cannot manage funding pressures without any adverse impact on the quality of education provided to pupils in their school/trust. In response to funding pressures, school governors/trustees have had to make difficult decisions about their budget. 44.4% of respondents had made at least one non-teaching staff member redundant within the past 12 months, and 27.7% had made at least one teaching staff member redundant. The most common response to funding pressures was to reduce spending on buildings and maintenance which 38% of respondents had done within the past year.
Concern is also growing about the way in which schools are able to support the needs of disadvantaged pupils. 61% of respondents said that their school does not have adequate funding to meet the needs of disadvantaged pupils, with 16% saying that their school has had to reduce pastoral support for pupils. Seven in ten said that their school provides additional services for families, but whilst the number of schools providing foodbanks, washing uniforms and meals outside term time has risen, the number of schools providing financial support with purchasing uniforms has dropped by 3.5%.
Staff wellbeing and workload moved up the list of governors and trustees concerns, with 62% listing this within their top five issues this year compared to 37% last year. Just under 70% of respondents identified that teacher workload was a problem in their school, and 48% had taken steps to reduce workload. Half of respondents also noted that the workload of their lead executive, and the pressure upon them, had increased within the past year.
Being a school governor/trustee is a significant commitment, and the report also demonstrates the time given freely by volunteers to the role. Almost a third of respondents said that they dedicated over 30 days per year to their governance role, and despite this only 17% of governors/trustees feel the role is unmanageable.
As the only large scale, annual collection of data on the people governing England’s schools, the report also reveals the demographics of governors and trustees. Diversity on governing boards persists as an issue: 93% of school governors/trustees are white compared to 74% of pupils in England, whilst just 10% governors and trustees are aged under 40.