A survey of governance volunteers from the National Governance Association (NGA) has revealed the recruitment challenges school governance volunteers face.
It highlights that 67% of governing boards report at least one vacancy with 38% reporting they have two or more vacancies. Overall, NGA estimates there are currently 20,000 vacancies across the school governance sector.
The pandemic has also made recruitment more challenging, with two thirds of respondents (63%) reporting that they faced issues compared to 55% in 2019 – an increase of 8 percentage points.
The findings are highlighted in the second of three reports based on the responses of over 4,000 governance volunteers to NGAs annual governance survey. The report, ‘Governance volunteers and board practice’, focuses on the recruitment challenges, demographics and broader practices of those who govern.
The report also highlights that for the first time since undertaking the survey, more than half of volunteers (51%) are 60 years old or older and governors and trustees below the age of 40 is the lowest on record halving over the past 5 years to 6%. Those under 30 remains at just 1% with governors over the age of 80 at 2%.
Schools and trusts benefit hugely from the experience of older governors and trustees, who are volunteering for longer, but without younger volunteers also joining boards, they are missing the input of those who have recently experienced school, new perspectives and diversity of ideas.
The report also highlights that only 6% of governors and trustees are Black, Asian or minority ethnic volunteers. There was, however, a small increase of 8 percentage points, compared to 2021, in boards reporting that they are successfully recruiting members from underrepresented groups – 24 per cent in 2022 compared to 16 per cent in 2021. Only 4% of chairs are from an ethnic minority background, however 42% of other respondents from an ethnic minority said they would consider chairing in the future. The findings underline that there is still much work to be done to improve these figures and this remains a priority for the NGA.
To combat this, NGA has partnered with ASCL to develop a suite of e-learning modules focusing on going beyond compliance to create an inclusive culture on your board. The modules are available to all Learning Link subscribers and freely available to those who sign up for a free trial of Learning Link.
Other key findings include:
- The size of boards has reduced over time. Nearly half of governing boards (47%) have 10 or fewer members, and one in five boards report eight or fewer members. This is compared to 17% of boards having 10 or fewer members on their board in 2013.
- A larger proportion of governors and trustees are volunteering for longer. In 2011, a quarter of governors and trustees surveyed said they governed for more than a decade, this has now increased to 40%. Over half (53%) of governors and trustees surveyed in 2022 have been involved in school governance for more than eight years
- The number of boards who are conducting interviews for new prospective governors and trustees is increasing. Over two thirds of respondents (68%) that joined their board in the past two years were interviewed for their current role.
- Only 4% of chairs are from an ethnic minority background, compared with an estimated 16% of the UK adult population from a minority ethnicity
- Over two thirds of respondents had reported that their governing role had become more challenging as a result of the pandemic.
Emma Knights, Chief Executive, 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. We are calling on the Department of Educaton to play their part by funding a national marketing campaign to highlight and recruit for this crucial role.”
Nina Sharma, Senior Policy and Research Officer, added: “Governing boards provide strategic leadership and accountability in schools and academy trusts, supporting and challenging school and trust leaders to ensure children and young people achieve to the best of their ability. But part of the issue is simply that people don’t know this, or don’t understand it. This report shows that we as a sector need to get better at raising the profile and talking about the positive impact. Governance tends to only be in the spotlight when things go wrong. We want that to change.”
These findings are published in ‘Governance volunteers and board practice’, the second report in NGA’s School and Trust Governance 2022 series, detailing the findings of the 2022 annual governance survey.