New research from the National Governance Association has found that vacancies for school governors and trustees are at their highest since 2016. 67 per cent of governing boards reported at least one vacancy and of these, 38 per cent reported two or more vacancies. The results are part of the NGA’s 2022 annual governance survey which also found that, post pandemic, 63 per cent of respondents reported issues with recruitment compared to 55 per cent in 2019.
Governing boards are responsible for the strategic direction of a school or trust and their decisions impact hundreds, if not thousands of pupils. With the typical board consisting of nine or ten governors or trustees, the high vacancy rate means some boards may struggle to drive improvement and provide sufficient scrutiny and financial oversight.
Overall, the NGA estimates there are currently more than 20,000 vacancies.
The research also found that the number of governors and trustees under 40 was just 6 per cent – the lowest on record since 2015. Half of governors and trustees are over 60 years (51 per cent) but just 1 per cent were under 30. Schools and trusts benefit hugely from the experience of older governors and trustees, but without younger volunteers also joining boards, they are missing the input of those who have recently experienced school.
Anju Dhir, who became a school governor in her mid-thirties, believes governors need to be more visible to young people: “There are more governors 80 years and over than under 30. The issue is that young people simply don’t know what we do – or that we even exist. This is a huge waste of human capital, for both schools and our young people. Becoming a governor is an incredible way to develop your career and can start from as young as 18 – how many young people normally get to join the board? For governing boards having someone who has recently experienced our education system is invaluable. Governing has helped me to develop in my career, as well as being a satisfying way to give back to my local community.”
To help with governor and trustee recruitment the NGA has launched a new film demystifying governance and encouraging people to find out more about how they can help the schools in their community. It’s part of the NGA’s Visible Governance initiative to make governance more visible in society.
Emma Knights, CEO of the National Governance Association said: “School and trust governance needs to be recognised and celebrated for its positive role in ensuring pupils and staff can flourish. Huge thanks are owed to all those committed volunteers carrying out this role with such care and reflection without a song and a dance. These findings make for sobering reading: schools need more good people and we need to get the message out far and wide to engage the thousands we need to fill governance roles. This is why we have launched a new film today explaining what school governors and trustees do and their role in helping our schools to succeed.”
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The National Association for Primary Education speaks for young children and all who live and work with them. Get a FREE e-copy of their professional journal at nape.org.uk/journal