Release date: 22/06/2021

A ‘one profession’ approach is needed to accelerate the increase of pay, status and career development for governance professionals working with schools and trusts, new research from the National Governance Association (NGA) concludes.

A significant majority of respondents – 70% – want to be recognised as a governance professional and support it as an umbrella term for all roles including that of clerks. This move confirms that there is one profession serving both trusts and maintained schools, not divided in two by school structures, even though different governance structures require additional or different knowledge.

The survey of 1,272 governance professionals conducted by NGA shows that governance professionals largely feel underrecognised, underpaid, underdeveloped in a system that lacks consistency and progression opportunities. Among the findings:

  • 39% of governance professionals do not receive an annual appraisal, and one in four had no induction to their role.
  • More than half of those clerking at school level (58%) are being paid below NGA’s recommended minimum of between £12.85 per hour and £14.74 per hour based on the level of experience involved.
  • Only a small minority (13%) saw scope for progression in their roles.
  • Low pay and lack of understanding of the role are the main factors for those wanting to leave the profession

NGA is calling for governing boards to give governance professionals appropriate CPD and induction, an annual appraisal, and an acceptable level of remuneration and time to complete their duties, as well as developing their own understanding of the scope and importance of the role of their governance professional.

In addition, NGA is proposing the creation of a career framework for governance professionals – in collaboration with the profession and other interested parties – which includes relevant qualifications and remuneration, and enhances its profile.

In response the Department for Education said that it is looking at how it can articulate the value of effective governance support particularly for school and trust leaders, and how it can identify a CPD career pathway for governance professionals.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the NGA said: “NGA, the DfE and many others are clear about the essential contribution that governance professionals make to good governance, through board effectiveness, productivity, compliance and board development. Yet it is apparent that this ambition is not matched by either the practice of boards nor leadership in the system. This profession is not being seen and treated as a profession. There is an urgent need for recognition and reward, and in turn the adoption of the habits and behaviours of a profession by governance professionals. Your individual and collective voices need to be heard to ensure change.”

Steve Edmonds, director of advice and guidance at NGA said: “Governance professionals have a crucial role in promoting the culture that ensures good governance in schools and trusts. The recognition, support, challenge and reward they are given should befit the significance of their role. NGA today reinforces its commitment – and invites others to join us – to addressing these deep-rooted issues of pay, development and recognition, to attract new talent and avoid the loss of knowledgeable governance professionals from the schools sector.”

In a video recorded for NGA’s Clerking Network event where the report was launched, Baroness Berridge, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System, said: “We know that governance professionals are a fundamental part of a good school and trusts governance situation, yet I know that the role of the governance professional has too often been overlooked and underappreciated. The NGA’s clerking matters campaign has been one of the forerunners in this space and I am grateful to them for their continued work. The DfE has been focusing on what we can do to strengthen the role of the governance professional. An important nut to crack is how we improve recognition at board level and among executive leaders – we need to get the sector to understand the value that an experienced professional can bring. We will be looking closely at the findings of NGA’s report. I want to see every board across the country being able to draw on the expertise of a competent governance professional.”

Panellists at NGA's Clerking Network shared their responses to the report: 

Emma Myers, Governance Lead, Woodward Academy Trust,  said: “Having a collective description and that umbrella term will help elevate the profile of our roles, will open up career progression pathways, and will create that much needed culture of recognising and rewarding experience and development.”

Karen Haines, Director of Just a Sec Limited, Governance Support Service, said:“Many clerks fall into the profession and there is an opportunity to find ways to improve the advertising of the role and what the role and responsibilities are. It is shocking that over one quarter of clerks are not offered an induction, which is something that needs to improve.”

Lucy Devine Governance Advisor, CGI, said "I want to emphasise the range of skills and complexity in governance from admin to advising senior people on really serious and difficult issues. To advise carefully and confidently requires qualifications."

Mandy Parsons, Co-Chair, NCOGS and Head of Governor Services, Hampshire County Council, said: “I would like to see that where governance professionals are employed, that employers take it serious, that they recognise the need for induction, CPD and seeing that embedded at a school level will lead independent clerks have those same expectations.”

Sharon Warmington, Founder and Director, NASCC, said: "Profile, remuneration and status are inextricably linked - we need to raise all of them. Chairs need to understand that their responsibility to clerks needs to match clerks responsibility to them."

Read the report

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