Guest Post: Governors – how do we encourage more people to volunteer?

The Key
The Key
Governors play a vital role in society. After all, it’s their job to help schools spend public money wisely and run efficiently – to make sure they’re up to the crucial job of educating the future citizens, workers, and leaders of our country. Lydia Bower from Governors for Schools reveals the latest research on public understanding of school governance, and gives her thoughts on what we can do to encourage more people to volunteer.

What impact do school governors have, and why should we be talking more about it?

Our recent YouGov survey found that a nearly a fifth of adults (19%) in England don’t know what governors do. Nearly three in ten adults (29%) think being a parent at the school is a requirement for the role, and nearly a fifth (19%) think you need experience working in education. With so many people in the dark about what the role entails, and many more not even sure if they’re eligible to apply, removing barriers to entry is critical. We need to make sure schools have access to the skills they need to make the right strategic decisions – and that comes from having a diverse and robust governing board.

Governors for Schools finds and places skilled and committed volunteers in schools across England. Our recent impact survey shows the value our volunteers bring to schools, and what they think of the role. Over 700 volunteers responded to our survey and 9 out of 10 said that they would recommend being a governor to a friend, while 86% enjoy or love the role.

The impact they have is impressive: every year, our volunteers bring £9.9m worth of value to schools. 85% of over 400 schools surveyed still have our governors in post, further validating the point that volunteers enjoy – and are good at – their roles.

The critical question we’re now facing – is how do we encourage more people to volunteer their skills as a governor?

It’s clear that part of the answer lies in educating the public on the role of governing boards. We know that awareness of the school governor role is low. Nearly a quarter (24%) of adults don’t know what the requirements are to be a governor, but the vast majority of skilled and committed people over 18 are eligible to apply. The traditional stereotypes of parents, teachers and older professionals as governors lead many to believe they’re not eligible. People who aren’t aware what governors actually do or who can apply are unlikely to be interested in the role.

Over a third (33%) of adults think governors organise fundraising events for the school, which although worthy in itself, detracts from the governing board’s role in setting the strategic direction of the school, scrutinising pupil performance data, and making often difficult decisions about budgets.

We need to raise the profile of governing boards so that becoming a school governor is a more popular option, both for those who want to give back and support their community, and for those looking to advance their careers.

Governors have the power to improve education for children and make a big impact on their lives. For many of our volunteers, it’s the impact you can make as a governor that draws them to – and keeps them in – the role. Getting this message out to more people is key to raising the school governor role’s profile and encouraging more people to apply.

*Note

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,932 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th and 19th November 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

 

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