Today’s report suggests that struggling schools find it hard and have less capacity to recruit governors with the right skills; a recruitment challenge which is impacting negatively on the overall quality of school governing bodies.

Among a raft of proposals aimed at improving the recruitment, retention and function of school governors, the report calls for governing bodies to reprioritise focus on longer-term strategic goals, instead of day-to-day school performance issues, and a greater emphasis to be placed on the skills and training required of school governors in order to recruit senior staff and headteachers in schools.

In its latest policy briefing, ‘The State of School Governing in England’, the IPR focuses on the crucial role governors play within the education system and the substantial financial contribution they make in terms of time, activities and financial resources.

Drawing on research conducted by our Department of Education, including the National Governors’ Survey conducted earlier this year, the policy brief finds that governors contribute in excess of £1 billion in unpaid services to the education budget annually, and that collectively governors oversee a national annual expenditure of more than £46 billion - a significant proportion of the total UK education budget.

Although school governing is a crucial and valuable aspect of education in England, it suggests the role of governors and the process of governing is often overloaded, overcomplicated and overlooked.

In the context of academies and free schools, the report calls for new and more coherent strategies for recruiting school governors, to ensure that governing bodies are equipped with the right skills and experiences, while ensuring a supply of new governors and fresh ideas.

Report author, Professor Chris James explains: “Our research reveals that governing bodies find it difficult to recruit new governors, particularly in primary and special schools. In addition, the schools most in need of good governors - those in disadvantaged areas and/or with lower pupil attainment – struggle most when it comes to recruitment, resulting in a ‘vicious cycle’.

“To counter the challenge of getting enough people to come forward with the right skills to be school governors, policy-makers need to do more to implement effective and coherent governor recruitment strategies. This includes creating a balance between work-friendly and family-friendly governing operations to enable more people to volunteer; raising the profile and importance of governing nationally to inspire a new generation who want to contribute to society; and broadening the diversity of ethnic backgrounds represented in governing bodies.”

For schools in disadvantaged areas, the report suggests encouraging collaboration between schools to share governors.

Co-author, Dr Janet Goodall, said: “There is an opportunity for governing bodies in the same area or region to work together in order to improve overall school or college performance. To share skills, experiences and learning, long-serving and capable governors of successful schools could be encouraged to volunteer as governors for schools that face greater challenges.”

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