School governors: Finding the right skill-set

Written by: David Rowsell | Published:
Image: iStock

There are a number of initiatives out there to help schools source governors from the world of business to boost the skill-set of their governing bodies. David Rowsell explains

According to the Department for Education, the purpose of maintained school governing bodies is to “conduct the school with a view to promoting high standards of educational achievement at the school”. This requires a core focus on three strategic functions:

  1. Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction.
  2. Holding the headteacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils and the performance management of staff.
  3. Overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure its money is well spent.

There is an ambition that “fully skills-based governance will become the norm across the education system”. Whether this involves the outsourcing of governance beyond parents is still a sensitive topic of debate.

However, according to research conducted by The Key in February 2016, recruiting the best governors to your team continues to be a challenge, with almost half of headteachers finding it difficult. The same survey also reported that most governors think there are key skills missing from within governing bodies:

  • Legal expertise (39 per cent).
  • Marketing experience (23 per cent).
  • Construction experience (21 per cent).
  • HR experience (18 per cent).
  • Commercial experience (14 per cent).
  • Ability to build community relationships (13 per cent).
  • Financial experience (13 per cent).

Financial expertise (66 per cent) is the skill that governors believe is the most important and so it makes sense to reach outside the usual community and parental pool of potential governors and explore where individuals with the skills that are missing can be found.

There are no surprises that these skills exist aplenty in large corporations across the UK, many of which provide employees with time to volunteer in their local community. The government reinforces working with corporations, by calling for governing bodies to improve their skills, slim down and learn from business and charities.
SGOSS Governors for Schools

The charity SGOSS Governors for Schools has been recruiting school governors since 1999 and believes that there are two dimensions to the calibre of volunteers it recruits: interest, passion and commitment, and transferable skills. SGOSS has placed more than 7,000 governors since 2010 and works with more than 2,000 organisations to provide skills-based volunteer governor matches.

Inspiring Governors

Inspiring Governors is a new initiative led by the Education and Employers Taskforce as part of its Inspiring the Future campaign, to celebrate and promote the importance of school governors.

With employer engagement in education a priority for the government, employers and schools, the Taskforce is focusing on both improving the quantity, quality and relevance of research into employer engagement in education to inform policy and practice, and helping match volunteers from the world of work and schools through skills and experience mapping.

The Inspiring the Future recruitment website has been developed to allow volunteers to create profiles showing their skills and experience for school governorship, with recruiting teachers/governors now able to search and invite volunteers from the world of work with the relevant governor skills they are looking for. This match-making approach allows schools to recruit the best people to their team.


Lloyds Banking Group is the largest corporate recruiter of governors in the UK through its schools governance programme – StandingOut. Through its Helping Britain Prosper Plan, Lloyds is committed to providing 2.3 million volunteer hours to support community projects by 2020.

Of these, school volunteers, the largest volunteer force in the country, play a significant role with 500 colleagues involved in Lloyds’ internal governors network to date and 119 governors recruited last year. StandingOut is built on four pillars:

  1. School governors – expanding the existing network, driving internal recruitment and providing training.
  2. Mentors and skills-based volunteering – skills-matching service for those who can’t commit to being a governor.
  3. Academy leadership – driving recruitment of MAT non-executive directors from Lloyds Banking Group and the UK’s business leaders.
  4. Business support – providing schools with support and fostering links with education relationship managers and colleague volunteers.

An area currently being explored within StandingOut is the use of e-governors to support boards. E-governors are skilled and experienced individuals who support their school remotely, through telephony, emails and conferencing facilities.

With certain geographic areas struggling to source governors from their local communities, e-governors ensure that skilled individuals can be on hand to provide governance and support from miles away.


Headteachers and school leaders should consider the broader benefits of recruiting skills-based governors from the business community, which could include insight into additional funding opportunities (through business foundations or community fund programmes, opportunities to provide work tasters or experience for pupils, and access to additional mentoring and employability programmes for their students.

  • David Rowsell is the Lloyds Banking Group’s education and financial education lead. The group is currently running a pilot in Yorkshire to help schools find governors with appropriate skills.

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