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Equality, diversity & inclusion

Race diversity on boards: our commitments to action 2021


A year ago the National Governance Association (NGA) updated the sector on the state of ethnic diversity on governing boards in schools and trusts. Despite our work and others’, the percentage of volunteers who identified as Black, Asian or a minority ethnicity was not rising. After holding a well-attended equality and diversity advisory meeting, I made seven commitments to take action to make a difference in 2020/21 and here I reflect on progress:

1. NGA will conduct research in two areas to understand how we can make progress.

Firstly with people from Black, Asian and other minority ethnicities who do not currently govern to understand the barriers to doing so and how these may be overcome;

One year on: although we were unable to assemble focus groups of those who did not govern (understandably they did not have much to say on something they did not engage with) – we spoke to community groups and national representative groups for different communities, and the main response was consistently ‘we didn’t know that governing schools was even a possibility’.  

Secondly with current Black, Asian and other minority ethnic governors and trustees to understand their experiences once on a board

One year on: the findings of these focus groups were published in June as part of our publication Increasing participation in school and trust governance – and inform of all our continuing work. There’s also a recording of the report launch event to watch back.

2. NGA is supporting the creation of a BAMEed Network governors hub:

One year on: the NGA and BAMEed network steering group on governance and race continues to meet termly to advise on the creation of resources and share experience. The group is in the process of creating a list of commitments for schools to adopt. Alongside each commitment, there will be guidance notes on how the commitment can be met including ideas on what evidence schools could present to support this. This will help ensure that this is not a ‘tick box’ exercise.

3. NGA will be improving our information, guidance and e-learning for governing boards on equalities and diversity, beginning later this next month. We will also be ensuring equalities, diversity and inclusion is threaded through our suite of information and guidance.

One year on: we have published a number of items over the last year:

And we have worked equality and diversity more thoroughly into several of NGA’s other resources in the light of the research findings, including

4. NGA will re-energise the recruitment campaign Everyone on Board, working with Inspiring Governance and others to promote the role to Black, Asian and minority ethnic volunteers and younger volunteers, making clear that it is open to everyone.

One year on: we have not progressed this as far as we had hoped, as we needed to concentrate on the research so that it would inform the recruitment work. NGA is no longer contracted to work with Inspiring Governance who are now leading on Everyone on Board. We did however arrange for three Black governors to share their experiences on BBC radio 4 and have worked with Operation Black Vote.

5. NGA will continue to work with seven other national representative organisations brought together by Institute of School Business Leaders (ISBL) including the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), Chartered College of Teaching, Confederation of School Trusts, Independent Schools Council and the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) to ensure as an education sector we are making progress and coordinating activity to maximise impact.

One year on: this has continued with NGA leading the production of a statement of intent that was published in June, which contains commitments from a wide range of national organisations. View the Statement of Intent.

6. NGA will support governing boards and trustees to learn and develop their own understanding of racial inequity across the sector, including within their own governance practice.  

One year on: we worked with Diverse Educators on a series of #DiverseGovernance webcasts and held an NGA annual conference seminar on the topic of the governing board’s role in promoting diversity and equality in staffing. Today we are publishing a summary of race charters and audit tools that have been created for schools, trusts and charities where there is an element that includes the governing board’s role. 

7. NGA will continue to report on the diversity of our own board and to keep taking active steps to improve diversity.

One year on: We promoted the six board positions that were for election last autumn through a wide range of channels, including with the support of The BAMEed Network and Diverse Educators, and our chair made the case for increased representation from Black, Asian and young governors. However, the elections resulted in the same composition as previously: one Black trustee and two young trustees.

Our recent report clearly demonstrates that the benefit of having multiple perspectives around the board table is now well established and widely accepted. In her foreword to the Department for Education’s Governance Handbook, the minister Baroness Berridge, says “More than ever we also need diverse boards, and the Handbook has been updated to emphasise the expectation that recruitment processes should encourage volunteers from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives, that better reflect the communities they serve.” NGA will continue to work with partners to ensure that diversity is achieved in practice: we still have a long way to go.

I’m restating NGA’s commitments to race equality and governance for the coming year:

  1. NGA will continue to work with BAMEed, directed by the steering group jointly chaired by Lizana Oberholzer from BAMEed and Rani Kaur, NGA’s Head of Advice. This group meets termly to advise on the creation of resources, share experience and ideas. The next meeting is on Monday 27 September 2021 and if you are interested in attending or being added to the mailing list, please contact Among other items the group will be discussing is the feasibility of offering mentors for new Black, Asian and ethnic minority volunteers, especially where their governing boards are unable to do so. If you want to know more or offer your services as a mentor, again please contact Adelaide, NGA Senior Advice Officer.
  2. NGA will continue to ensure equalities, diversity and inclusion is threaded through our information, guidance and e-learning for governing boards.
  3. NGA will continue to support governing boards to develop their understanding of racial inequity, including within their own governance practice.  We will be adding a further module to our e-learning offer with the aim of raising awareness and change behaviours (if needed) with regard to equality and diversity; this is being developed with ASCL and will be available to all.
  4. On recruiting diverse boards, NGA will seek new routes and partners to spread the opportunity for governing, including through our Visible Governance campaign. We are also lobbying the Department for Education to undertake a national volunteer recruitment campaign, given that scale is really needed to make a difference here.
  5. NGA will continue to work with other national representative organisations brought together by ISBL to ensure as an education sector we are making progress on a range of fronts and coordinating activity to maximise its impact.
  6. NGA will continue to report on the diversity of our own board: NGA’s board of trustees recognises that while reflecting the governance community, it does not reflect wider society and the community schools serve. We are in particular encouraging candidates from an Asian background to put themselves forward in our board elections taking place in the East Midlands. North West and North East. People are always more likely to put themselves forward if it is suggested directly to them – so please pass this opportunity on.
Emma Knights OBE
Emma Knights OBE

Co-Chief Executive

As NGA’s Co-Chief Executive, Emma promotes the interests of the school governance community nationally with legislators, policy makers, education sector organisations and the media. Emma is an accomplished writer and speaker on a range of school governance policy and practice topics.