Effective induction for new governors

Written by: Alex Collinson | Published:
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Are your school’s governors being inducted effectively? Alex Collinson offers some induction tips to help you ensure your governors remain in post for longer

As well as being part of Ofsted’s judgement on leadership and management, the need for effective and committed governors is stressed in the Department for Education’s (DfE) competency framework for governance. Published in January, the framework stresses the importance of having governors who can acquire the knowledge needed for the role and build strong collaborative relationships.

While the importance of having the right members on your governing body is clear, research conducted by the charity SGOSS – Governors for Schools found that of all the governors that resign, 73 per cent do so within the first year.

Entering the world of education can be daunting, especially if you are from another sector. So how can schools ensure their governors are knowledgeable from the start, able to make an impact, and more likely to stick around? In The Key’s 2016 survey, a quarter of governors said that higher quality induction training would have the biggest positive impact on their governing body. Taking the time to ensure that your new governors know how to apply their skills and have a realistic understanding of their responsibilities could make a real difference to their confidence and ability to succeed (and remain) in the role. So, here’s five steps to consider when inducting new recruits.

Get to grips with risks and responsibilities

A new governor should be aware of their core role from the start. As stated in the framework, governors are “the vision-setters and strategic decision-makers for their schools”. It is important for new governors to understand the difference between strategic and operational. As part of this, governors need to adopt a proactive and deep understanding of the risks that schools face. Being aware of the potential financial risks, such as changes to national funding formulas or how a curriculum change may affect performance, before they start means they can be better prepared to minimise these risks and fulfil their strategic role.

Know the school inside out

Learning about the school is crucial but it can be difficult for new governors to know where to look in order to get a deeper understanding.
The first step is directing governors towards the school website. Reading about the ethos and values, admissions arrangements, recent exam results, behaviour policy and curriculum is a good place to start. They should also be provided with the school development plan, the next headteacher’s report to governors and RaiseOnline data to ensure they are up to speed. Ofsted reports are also available, while performance tables published by the DfE will help a new governor to see how their school compares to others.

While this information will prepare them for the road ahead, a school visit can help to provide a much more rounded picture of day-to-day life.

Governors should be encouraged to regularly visit the school, not only in their first year but throughout their time as a governor.

This will not only help them to question those at the school about progress being made towards objectives, it will build relationships and understanding with you and your staff members.

Complete a skills audit

Governing bodies rely on the wide range of skills and expertise of their members, and a new governor is likely to have a lot of experience and knowledge that will benefit the school. While the school may be aware of some of a governor’s skills before they start, a skills audit will help to find out more about what this new governor can bring.

Skills audits are also useful for existing governors and will give a good indication of what skills there already are on the governing body and what might be missing. This can help boost the confidence of new and existing governors, making them aware that their existing skills are valued by the school and they can make an impact individually.

Get to terms with the jargon

The education sector is full of acronyms and jargon that could be somewhat alienating for someone who isn’t used to them. Will a new governor know what you mean by STPCD, FSM, EFA or Pupil Premium? Induction training can help new governors get to grips with this at the earliest point.

Preparing for the first meeting

The first meeting is always the scariest. Make sure your new governor has everything they need at least a week before the meeting. This includes an agenda, as well as any reports and papers that will be considered.

Even with the best induction training, new governors will and should still have questions. However, having a high-quality induction could make them feel much more prepared for the role, which could make all the difference in holding on to them.

  • Alex Collinson is a researcher specialising in school staffing at The Key, which provides leadership and management support to schools in England.

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