Release date: 17/09/2020

Governors and trustees have shared their views on governance recruitment and their motivations for volunteering in the National Governance Association’s annual state of the nation report, which also reveals the demographic of school governance volunteers.

Young people (aged under 40) and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnicities continue to be significantly underrepresented in school governance. There is a higher proportion of volunteers aged 70 and over (14%) than there are aged under 40 (11%). 94% of governors and trustees surveyed identified as white, 1% as Black, 2% as Asian, and 1% as mixed or being of multiple ethnic groups, which compares to a pupil population where 73% of school pupils are white, 6% Black, 12% Asian, 6% mixed or multiple groups and 2% another ethnic minority.

There are however positive signs that with new volunteers, the diversity of boards is improving. Of those volunteers that have joined their board within the past year, 90% identify as white, 2% as Black, 3% as Asian, 3% from mixed/multiple groups and 1% from other ethnic backgrounds. A third (32%) of new volunteers recruited within the past year are aged under 40.

Though Black, Asian and other minority ethnicities are even more underrepresented in chairing roles, 54% of Black governors and trustees and 42% of Asian governors and trustees said that they would consider or plan to chair their board in the future compared to 30% of white governors and trustees.

60% of governors and trustees surveyed identify as female and 39% as male. Although 55% of chairs are female, women are less likely be chair. Half of women (49%) want to take on the chairing role in the future compared with 61% of men.

Governance recruitment is increasingly challenging with 63% of governors and trustees surveyed reporting that recruiting new volunteers is difficult compared with just half of those surveyed in 2015. Only 48% of governors and trustees in London say that recruiting volunteers is difficult compared to 68% in the South West and the East Midlands and 67% in the East of England. Recruitment is particularly difficult for those governing alternative provisions/pupil referral units with nearly four in five respondents in these settings agreeing that recruitment is a challenge, and in special schools where 70% of governors and trustees said the same. This compares to 53% of those governing secondary schools saying recruitment is difficult.

Other key findings include:

  • Almost two in three governors and trustees are employed, but they are mostly either self-employed (18%) or work part-time (22%) meaning that only 35% of respondents are in full-time employment.
  • Wanting to make a difference for children is the number one motivator for those governing (62%), followed by a desire to serve the community (56%) and an interest in education (52%).
  • Volunteers from groups which are generally underrepresented on governing boards overall are less likely to report ‘being asked to join the board’ as the reason they became involved in school governance.

The annual school governance survey collected 6,864 responses in 2020 and is the only consistent large-scale survey on the demographics, views and experiences of the volunteers governing state-funded schools in England.

Read the School Governance in 2020 governance volunteers report.

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