What does it take to be a governor?


Questioning, committed, team-workers, and well-respected – just what are the attributes that are needed in order to become an effective school governor?

Part of the research undertaken by the University of Bath and the National Governors’ Association has sought to answer this question by summarising what it is governing bodies look for in new recruits.

The report – The State of School Governing in England 2014 – has set out the skills that the more than 7,700 governors involved in the research said were important to their schools. Top of the list were four key traits, all scoring 98 per cent:

  • A willingness to take collective responsibility rather than pursue particular issues.

  • A readiness to ask challenging questions.

  • A commitment to the school.

  • An ability to work in a group.

A majority of governors also reported that they often seek specialist knowledge in new recruits, such as financial or legal expertise, to fill gaps in the school’s knowledge base.

Elsewhere, 61 per cent said a knowledge of education was important, while 56 per cent wanted to see an ability to represent the interests of particular community groups, and 49 per cent wanted them to be “well-respected in the community”. The report states: “The findings illustrate the debate about what kind of expertise is required for school governing and the use to which it is put. Clearly, governors value specialist knowledge and expertise.”

However, the report warns that coercing governors with specific expertise to do the work of the school was not good practice: “Expertise (such as in accounting) can be used to scrutinise aspects of the school’s work. It could however be used to ‘do’ that kind of work where for example, the governor with expertise in accounting actually works on the school’s accounts: that work is not ‘governing’.”


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