School and academy governors are the largest body of volunteers in the country. I rarely see a governing body or a trust board that doesn’t have vacancies on it. Because there are so many governor posts available, schools are often left feeling as though they can’t be selective about the governors they nominate to their boards. However, in the current school governance climate, it is more important than ever to have the right people on your governing body.
The Department for Education stresses the need for a balance of skills, perspectives, and experiences on every governing body and board to ensure robust decision making. Many governing bodies that have taken this on board are now regularly discussing and auditing their skills, but less focus is placed on providing a balance of perspectives and experiences.
Why is a variety of perspectives and experiences significant? Because if all the people in a group of decision-makers always agree, then there will be little discussion, which can lead to ‘group think’. It may mean that decisions aren’t thought about from every possible perspective and that conclusions are reached without thorough consideration.
So how do we ensure a balance of perspectives and experiences on our boards? Through actively encouraging diversity. Governors who have had different experiences, governors from different backgrounds, of different ethnicities, of different ages, and with varying approaches to work and home life.
The most challenging question to answer is how to recruit a diverse range of governors onto your board when people volunteer for these roles? You can start by advertising with a clear role description. Layout the benefits of taking on the role of a governor – think about the benefits as they would be for all different types of people – benefits around improving confidence, giving the experience of being on a strategic board, giving back to the community, getting understanding of a workplace environment, or maybe getting to know other local people.
People have many reasons for volunteering, and if you try to appeal to what those motivations may be for a wide range of people, you may be able to recruit a wider diversity of governors to your board.
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