How we’re preparing new governors to hit the ground running and ‘get governing’

Linda Unternahrer
Linda Unternahrer
Often one of the greatest frustrations in governance is how long it can take for a brand-new governor to feel like they have a handle on the role. And this isn’t just frustrating for the new governor, it also serves as a hindrance for the whole board. Good governing boards are designed to run lean, so even one governor that isn’t up to speed can have an impact on how efficiently the board works.

Common wisdom is that it takes a year – or even two! – before a governor can really contribute meaningfully to their school. Given that most governors serve 4-year terms, that’s a lot of wasted time.

There had to be a better way.

The problem 

While we all recognise the need for good governor training at the very beginning of a new governor’s journey, many governors have told us the training available is pretty hit-or-miss and varies wildly depending on the trust or LA.

In many cases, ‘governor induction’ involves giving up an entire day – normally at the weekend. But this doesn’t take into account that governors themselves are incredibly busy! No-one wants to give up a precious Saturday to sit in their local library for 6 hours of PowerPoint presentations with some questionable own-branded biscuits. They will likely get enough of that at their termly meetings.

And for those trusts and LAs that have figured out that a full-day induction is a big ask, they offer individual courses on an ad hoc basis. But this solution leaves new governors with huge gaps in their training as they wait for each course to come around.

For example, I’ve been a governor for over a year, and I’m still waiting for courses to complete my own induction programme. Of course, my colleagues and I spend all day, every day writing about all things governance – so we don’t actually need the training. Or the biscuits.

But then we realised that meant we were in a unique position to use our platform at The Key to fill in the training gap.

Our thinking

We started out with some problem statements – what we believed were the main reasons why a universal solution has been missing up to now:

How do we meet the needs of all new governors? 

Not all governors experience the same induction journey. A good governor induction needs to help all new governors get up to speed quickly, regardless of whether they’ve had no training, half training, or even bad training. 

How do we provide a comprehensive course that fits busy schedules?

Whatever solution we came up with, it would need to acknowledge the reality of a new governor’s schedule. School governors are the largest volunteer workforce in the UK, and they come from every walk of life. But they all share one thing in common: they’re busy.

How do we get new governors up-to-speed in hours rather than months?

Finally, we needed a solution that wasn’t too much or too little – it had to be just right. So much about traditional governor training is overwhelming when the reality is that you don’t need to know everything at once to be a good governor. We want new governors to feel confident and empowered enough to step up in just a few hours – not a year!

The solution 

At The Key, we serve 35,000 governors every day on our platform. As such, we are uniquely placed to provide an induction experience that can meet the needs of all governors, no matter where they are, professionally or geographically. 

We set to work and in designing our training, we aimed to:

  • Provide training on-demand when you need it, whether you’ve got 15 minutes on the train or 2 hours after the kids go to bed
  • Create bitesize content that’s easily digestible and designed to be quick and engaging
  • Cut through the noise so new governors can focus on what they need to know in order to get up and running quickly

We’re starting off with induction training for governors in maintained schools, but we’ll be following up shortly with induction training for local governors in academies. 

But our courses won’t focus just on new governors. We have plans to provide training for more experienced governors, too. Our first offering will be for governors with responsibility for safeguarding.

Our aim is that in offering training that fits around your schedule and meets your needs wherever you are, all governors can feel confident in their roles and empowered to drive improvements in education across the country. All you have to do is sign up, log on and dive in. Put your feet up and BYOB (bring your own biscuits).

Training is available exclusively to members of The Key for School Governors. Check out our video below, or to preview this course, visit: https://key.sc/31ccTNM

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