Schools governors deliver damning verdict on Government policies

30/09/2016

The National Governors’ Association and education magazine TES today published findings from a
2016 survey of 5000 school governors and trustees.

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Key findings:
  • School governors and trustees give their damning verdict on Government policy: more than
    half of respondents are ‘very negative’ about the direction of Government policy, increasing
    from 31% in 2015
  • Headteacher recruitment is challenging, especially in South East, London and East of England
  • About half of governing boards struggle to recruit new volunteers
  • Funding pressure force schools to reduce staff, narrow the curriculum and increase class sizes
  • Slowdown in rates of academy conversion
  • Only 4% of respondents disagree that induction training should be mandatory for new governors   

A snap poll of nearly 1000 governors, conducted after the main survey closed, found 8/10 are opposed to the government's plans to introduce more grammar schools.

The ‘state of the nation’ survey reveals governors and trustees in England are deeply dissatisfied
with Government policy, with more than half of respondents (53%) registering a 'very negative'
verdict and a further 25% registering a 'negative' verdict on how the Government has performed
in its first year. In 2015, the last year of the coalition Government, overall dissatisfaction rated at 56%.

 

Emma Knights, Chief Executive of the National Governors’ Association, said: “Those governing our schools are generally unhappy with the direction of Government education policy: with more than 6 times the number of
respondents negative about the Government’s policies than positive. Those governing academies are a little bit more positive, but really not that much: 70% of trustees of multi academy trusts (MATs) are negative about Government policy. So many of the very people who are in the business of helping the government deliver its MAT agenda are not in tune with the rest of the Government’s approach to education.”

Emma Knights continued: “the high level of dissatisfaction found by this survey means the new Secretary of State needs to have a major rethink about the way her department is approaching the army of volunteers who are responsible for overseeing the education of pupils and expenditure of billions of pounds of public money. Those governing are still being largely overlooked – and the great majority of them are fed up with the situation.  They have a huge amount of knowledge and experience, and the Secretary of State needs to tap into that collective wisdom.” 

Recruitment

The findings, laid out fully in today’s TES, show that recruiting headteachers remains
a significant challenge for governors and trustees, especially in the South East, London
and East of England regions. Overall 42% of respondents with a view found it difficult to
attract good candidates when recruiting to the post of headteacher. The picture is
largely similar for recruiting senior leaders.

Blog: school governors
aren't happy but will the government take any notice?

When it comes to teacher recruitment, with the same three areas present the most
challenges. Among respondents from secondary schools the top most difficult subjects
to recruit to were maths (68%), physics (51%) and chemistry (39%).

Board level recruitment: 61% of respondents said it was difficult to attract
new recruits to their governing board and just under one third carried two or more vacancies.

While only 5% of respondents said they’d used services provided by Inspiring Governors,
the service which is being transformed into Inspiring Governance, in partnership with
NGA. It is a free service that connects skilled volunteers interested in serving as
governors/trustees with schools and colleges. NGA this week opened a dedicated helpline
service to support new governors and trustees through their first year in the role. 

Funding

Respondents to the survey also confirmed that changes to funding had affected their
schools. Over 40% had reduced the number of teaching staff. 29% had reduced the
number of subjects on offer at school and 29% had increased class sizes.

Emma Knights said: “A year ago Nicky Morgan had been the first Secretary of State to address NGA’s summer conference. She promised delegates a period of consolidation to give schools time to implement curriculum reforms and said fairer funding would be in place from April 2017. Neither of those things has happened. Far from it.

“These respondents should not be portrayed as moaning minnies: they are the very same people who are getting on and coping with restricted budgets, changes in assessment and performance data, difficulties in recruiting staff and changing school structures.”

Academy conversion

Our surveys over the past four years have showed a slowing down of academy
conversions, with 15% in 2012 having converted in the previous year down to
3% this year. Recent national policy debates, however, have pushed the issue
of academy conversion back up the agenda of many governing boards. Since
the announcement that the Government’s aspiration for all schools to be
academies by 2022, three quarters of maintained governing bodies reported
being in discussion about conversion.

More on this:

 

TES eight out of 10 governors give government 'negative' verdict - Richard Vaughan

Blog: school governors aren't happy but will the government take any notice?

Who governs our schools? Ellie Cotgrave takes a preliminary look at the results
of the 2016 NGA/TES survey of governors and trustees: this picks up on more detailed
issues of governors such as payment for governors, demographics of governing
boards, induction training and engaging with stakeholders. 

 

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