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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 in order to ensure robust decision making. Many governing bodies have taken this on board are now regularly discussing and auditing their skills, but less focus is placed on ensuring a balance of perspectives and experiences.

Why is a variety of perspectives and experiences important? Because if all the people in a group of decision-makers always agree with each other, then there will be limited discussion and this 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 to each other, governors from different backgrounds, of different ethnicities, of different ages, and with different approaches to work and home life.

The hardest question to answer is how to go about recruiting a diverse range of governors onto your board when people are volunteering for these roles? You can start by advertising with a clear role description. Lay out the benefits of taking on the role of governor – think about the benefits as they would be for all different types of people – benefits around improving confidence, giving experience of being on a strategic board, giving back to the community, getting experience 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, then you may be able to recruit a wider diversity of governors to your board.

We understand the challenges faced by governing bodies and trust boards, if you require support with a specific area or a whole organisational approach, please contact us, we are here to help!

Penny Levack

Penny Levack

Penny has more than ten years’ experience in the classroom, in assessment design, and in leadership roles in both schools and universities. Her most recent role before joining Juniper Education was in governance, compliance, and communications in a multi-academy trust in South London. Penny is a governor herself and is passionate about school governance and the impact that it can have on school improvement. She has a degree in Education Studies from the University of Cambridge.