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Governance workload

A matter of time

Exploring the time it takes to govern in schools and trusts.

tools-resources small white clock

This report sheds crucial light on the time commitment required of dedicated volunteers who play a vital role in shaping the future of our schools and, by extension, our society.

It challenges us to rethink our approach to school and trust governance, to find ways to streamline processes without compromising on quality, and to ensure that those who give so generously of their time are adequately supported and recognised.

Research overview

'Time-use' diaries were completed by 56 governors and trustees over four weeks across a mix of school types, phases and governance roles. Data was self-reported and was reliant on participants recording their time use accurately. Despite this, it is possible to draw meaningful conclusions from the data.

This study provides an up-to-date, quantitative evaluation of the time commitment of governors and trustees. This builds on NGA's existing qualitative research and reveals insights on an area that is rarely reported on.

Key findings

  1. Those in non-chairing roles spent 15.8 hours (or 2.1 working days per month, where a working day is 7.5 hours) on their governance role across four weeks. This compares to 21.6 hours (or 2.9 days per month) for those in a chairing role.
  2. Those chairing (both chairs and vice chairs) in maintained schools spent over double the time that non-chairs did.
  3. Single academy trust (SAT) trustees spent the most time on their governance role out of all board types at nearly 3.5 working days per month. Meanwhile, maintained school governors spent just over 3 days. Multi academy trust (MAT) trustees spent 2.7 days and local governors in a MAT the least at 1.8 days.
  4. Those governing in secondary settings spent more time governing than those in primary settings – especially true for those chairing.
  5. The average full governing board meeting was 2.25 hours and an average committee meeting lasted 1.7 hours – a total of 236 hours or 16% of all diary time.
  6. Exceptional events like Ofsted, academisation, and headteacher recruitment significantly increased total time in many diaries.
  7. Administration and reading time were the top two activities reported overall (in terms of activities recorded by most participants and taking the most time).
  8. Taking part in training and development features in the top five activities reported (recorded by most participants and taking the most time).
  9. Alongside training and development, operational activities were the third most time-consuming reported in the diaries, adding an average of 1.6 hours’ time burden.

External and self-review packages

In order to realise your board’s potential for continuous improvement, NGA recommend having an external review of governance every three years, and an annual self-review. Our online self-evaluation tools and external review packages are here to support with this process.

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