Release date: 30/09/2020

Governors and trustees have shared their experience of supporting pupils – particularly those with special education needs and/or disabilities (SEND) – and communities as well as their views on the accountability system and the profile of governance in the National Governance Association’s annual state of the nation report.

Over half of governors and trustees report that their school(s) provide additional services for disadvantaged families (54%), most commonly assistance for purchasing and/or washing school uniform (37%) and giving advice on income and benefits (24%). The proportion of respondents saying that their school/trust provides meals outside of term time was more than three times higher than 2019 (13% compared to 4%), while the proportion of respondents reporting the provision of food banks had more than doubled (17% compared to 8% in 2019). Alternative provisions and special schools are particularly affected with 39% of those governing alternative provisions saying their school provides meals outside of term time and 35% saying their school provides a food bank. 30% of those governing alternative provisions and 37% of those governing special schools say their school offers disadvantaged families advice on income and benefits.

In addition, almost three quarters of school governors and trustees believe that cuts to local authority services have had an adverse effect on their school (74%), an increase of 28% of respondents from 2015.

Support for pupils with SEND is one of the three biggest challenges facing their school for nearly a quarter (22%) of respondents. However, practice in how boards monitor and elevate the status of SEND in their school varies with those governing in mainstream settings less likely to engage with key stakeholders when shaping their provision for these pupils. 87% of boards have a SEND governor/trustee who liaises regularly with the school’s SENCO and keeps the board informed.

Less than half of governors and trustees believe that the current inspection system has a positive impact on the school system (47%) despite most governors and trustees believing that their most recent Ofsted inspection gave a fair and accurate picture of their school (80%). Those who viewed their most recent Ofsted as unfair and inaccurate were more likely to disagree that the inspection system had a positive impact (73%). Meanwhile 54% of those who agreed that their most recent Ofsted was fair and accurate agreed that the inspection system had a positive impact on schools.

Other key findings include:

  • Almost half of governors and trustees (44%) report that their board had taken action in relation to climate change.
  • 60% of respondents would support the introduction of ensuring effective engagement with stakeholders as a fourth core function for governing boards with only 9% opposing its inclusion.
  • Monitoring the results of surveys as a form of stakeholder engagement has risen in the past year – from 56% to 70% for staff surveys, from 59% to 69% for pupil surveys and from 73% to 86% for parent/carer surveys.
  • Many governors and trustees do not feel their work is seen or valued. Less than one in five governors/trustees believe that the general public understands and values the role and contribution to schools (18%), while only two in five believe that parents have a good understanding of the governor/trustee role (40%).

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 pupils, communities and accountability report.

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