Busting the myths about our governors

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While welcoming recent national headlines about the role of school governors, SecEd editor Pete Henshaw is still frustrated by people's ignorance of exactly how important these vital volunteers are for our education system.

It was wonderful to see the work of school governors hit the national headlines earlier this month as survey findings were released showing the general public’s ignorance of the breadth and depth of their roles.

Sadly, I was not surprised to see the findings of the survey, which was carried out last year by the governor recruitment charity – SGOSS (School Governors’ One-Stop-Shop).

It never ceases to amaze me that while our school governors make up by far the biggest volunteer workforce in the country, society’s views, or indeed stereotypes, of this vital group of people could not be more backward.

The findings of the Populous poll, which involved 1,781 UK residents, discovered that 61 per cent of people didn’t realise that school governors appoint headteachers and 76 per cent did not know they decide upon admissions policies either.

Furthermore, 85 per cent had no idea they sign off a school’s budget, while 95 per cent did not know they allocated budgets for new buildings.

I suspect that many people’s views of the role of governors is one of fête organisers and fundraisers who will willingly spend a weekend painting the new school reception area but play no real role in running the place.

And I suspect it is this stereotype that is the cause of the recruitment problems that so many schools experience when it comes to their governing bodies.

In reality, the position of school governor has become one of the greatest opportunities for aspiring, talented professionals – offering all manner of experience and calling for all manner of skills.

While the recruitment problems for school governors should not be termed a crisis, it is worrying. According to SGOSS, in some areas such as rural communities, areas of high deprivation, and areas where there is low community engagement, it is estimated that as many as one in four school governor positions are vacant. In total, there are 30,000 governor vacancies across England.

But there is hope. SecEd has followed the excellent work of SGOSS over the years and the charity has done wonderful things to engage professionals in the running of our nation’s schools. And credit should go to the Department for Education for continuing to fund the work of this important organisation.

The latest initiative from SGOSS is the School Makers campaign, which saw the launch of a new, and rather brilliant, interactive video campaign earlier this month to raise awareness and recruit volunteers.

Of course, writing an editorial about the importance of the governors’ role in SecEd with its audience of teachers and school leaders is probably a little like preaching to the converted. 

However, I think it is important to take every opportunity to stress the dedication, professionalism and passion that so many of our school governors demonstrate, and to stress the amazing opportunities that come with the role of the modern school governor in 2014.

Besides, if you learn one thing from this editorial, it might be that SGOSS offers a great and free recruitment service for schools, either with volunteers ready to go right now or the know-how to help you find the perfect governor candidate.

Perhaps if we all worked as hard as SGOSS to break the myths of school governors and to sell the evident attractions of the role, we would soon see the end of the recruitment problems – and we might even see every school thriving under a diverse and effective governing body. 

Further information
For more on SGOSS and to view the School Makers video, visit www.sgoss.org.uk/schoolmakers


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