Release date: 14/07/2022

The National Governance Association has today (14 July) launched a new animated film to explain the role of governors and trustees in helping schools and trusts succeed.

Designed to be used by anyone who wants to spread the word about the importance and value of school and trust governance, NGA hopes this film will support governors and trustees to share what they do, and support recruitment of new volunteers.

The film has been produced as part of NGA’s Visible Governance campaign.  First launched in 2020, the campaign aims to highlight the huge contribution to the education system that governing boards play, shining a light on the difference that good governance makes to the success of schools and trusts and encouraging more people to govern.

Findings from the 2022 annual governance survey shows that schools and trusts in England are facing major challenges in recruiting governance volunteers, with 67 per cent of governing boards reporting at least one vacancy and of these, 38 percent reporting they have two or more vacancies.  The findings shows that vacancies are at their highest since 2016.

Recruitment is also becoming more challenging, with two thirds of respondents (63%) reporting that they faced issues compared to 55 per cent in 2019 - an increase of 8 percentage points. Overall, NGA estimates there are currently more than 20,000 vacancies.

The research also shows that the number of governors and trustees under 40 was just 6 per cent - the lowest on record since 2015. Half of governors and trustees are over 60 years (51 per cent) but just 1 per cent were under 30.  Schools and trusts benefit hugely from the experience of older governors and trustees, but without younger volunteers also joining boards, schools are missing the input of those who have recently experienced school. 

Emma Knights, CEO of the National Governance Association said: “School and trust governance needs to be recognised and celebrated for its positive role in ensuring pupils and staff can flourish. Huge thanks are owed to all those committed volunteers carrying out this role with such care and reflection without a song and a dance. These findings make for sobering reading: schools need more good people and we need to get the message out far and wide to engage the thousands we need to fill governance roles. This is why we have launched a new film today explaining what school governors and trustees do and their role in helping our schools to succeed.”

Dominic Judge, Director of Governance Programmes, Inspiring Governance shared his support for the Visible Governance campaign: “Delighted as Inspiring Governance to support the NGA’s Visible Governance campaign. It’s so important to re-double our efforts to celebrate the brilliant and selfless volunteers who give up their valuable time to make strategic board decisions that improve schools for all our children. Our own Value of Volunteering research shows that in addition to giving something back to schools, volunteers themselves develop new skills, employers get more motivated and productive employees, and individuals get enhanced health and well-being benefits of making a difference to their community. It’s time we make this more visible for all and persuade more volunteers to become governors and trustees!”

Hannah Stolton, CEO, Governors for Schools shared her support for the campaign: “Governors for Schools stands with NGA and the #VisibleGovernance campaign. Recruiting more school governors is vital to fill the thousands of vacancies registered with us each year. Numbers alone will not solve the problem, however. We know that schools benefit from a diverse board, and Governors for Schools helps ensure there are different perspectives around the table. Schools with board vacancies are missing out. We hope that through sharing their experiences, the thousands of volunteers we have placed will encourage others to take up the role. Governors for Schools support the campaign and welcome the opportunity to share the opportunity with new volunteers. You can make a difference by becoming a school governor and sharing the important message of the #VisibleGovernance campaign.”

David Brown, Chief Executive of the Eynsham Partnership Academy Trust, responded to the findings saying: “As a trust we try to think more about what might motivate someone to govern, and how it connects with their interests and passions, rather than feeling rushed to recruit. It certainly requires some creative thinking and we’re constantly looking for people who could take on governance roles and to also ensure we have the right mix of talents to be effective.”

Anju Dhir, who became a school governor in her mid-thirties, believes governors need to be more visible to young people: “There are more governors 80 years and over than under 30. The issue is that young people simply don’t know what we do - or that we even exist. This is a huge waste of human capital, for both schools and our young people. Becoming a governor is an incredible way to develop your career and can start from as young as 18 - how many young people normally get to join the board? For governing boards having someone who has recently experienced our education system is invaluable. Governing has helped me to develop in my career, as well as being a satisfying way to give back to my local community.”

Matthew McKirgan, a construction project manager and someone who became a governor at 22 years, added:Taking up a governing role in my early twenties had an incredible impact on me. It gave me the opportunity to give something back to my community whilst developing transferable skills and a confidence that helped me to develop in my own career. I think it’s important to have a diversity of voices on any board and the voices of young governors, who have their own perspective based on recent experience of the school system, is really welcome.”

Find out more about the Visible Governance campaign.

Find out more about the film and how it can be used. 

About the research

The findings quoted in this release are selected from the NGA’s school and trust governance survey. The self-selecting online survey is the largest of its kind and was open to all governors, trustees and academy committee members. The survey was live between 25th April 2022 and 30th May 2022 via the online survey website SmartSurvey and 4,185 respondents engaged with the survey.  For more information about the 2022 annual governance survey findings email research@nga.org.uk. The findings will be released in full in the autumn.

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