Annal Nayyar- blogs a report that suggests Schools failing to recruit skilled governors

Too few schools are taking advantage of new freedoms to recruit governors for their skills, MPs said today.

The Commons education select committee called on the government to require schools to offer mandatory training to new governors and to strengthen intervention in poor or failing governing bodies. Regulations  introduced in September 2012 allow governing bodies to reconstitute themselves as smaller boards with an emphasis on skills rather rhan set constitutions.

Highlighting the fact that governor recruitment continues to be a problem in many schools, particularly primaries, the MPs said ministers should also ‘review the current incentives for, and requirements on, businesses that release their staff for governor duties.

‘We also recommend that the legal requirement to give time off for governors of maintained schools be extended to academies.’

Launching the report, committee chair Graham Stuart said: ‘Greater freedoms for schools mean we need more effective governing bodies. At the moment, the quality of governance in many schools is inadequate. Accordingly, we are recommending a series of measures to boost governors’ performance. These include introducing professional clerks, whose status should be similar to a company secretary.

‘Crucially, we want to encourage people from all walks of life to contribute as school governors.  The Department for Education should play its part by explaining what models of school governance are now possible under the new regulations.’

The MPs said paying governors was not necessary but called for further consideration of payment where, for example, governors used their skills to improve governance in other schools.

The committee heard mixed opinions on the balance between individuals with specific skills and stakeholders. The National Governors’ Association thought emphasising ‘business skills’ might undermine the strategic role of governors while Michael Jeans, of the Haberdashers’ Company, said: ‘You do not put an accountant, or a lawyer or a surveyor on the board of governors in order to gain on-the-cheap professional advice. You put somebody on that board because they have that breadth of experience and, if necessary, will know that at this point you should seek external advice from an accountant, or something.’

On tackling underperformance or failure of governing bodies, the committee also said there was a lack of clarity over the role of local authorities in school improvement both within the new school landscape and in the context of reductions to budgets. ‘We recommend that this be addressed by the DfE as a matter of urgency,’ they said.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers backed the committee’s call for school governors to receive training.  But general secretary Mary Bousted said: ‘The reality is that local authority budget cuts and increased independence for schools are resulting in some schools having to arrange their own training, with little guidance about quality and an increase in costs and administration.

‘The challenge for school governing bodies is about more than just plugging the gap in governor numbers or skills. By pitting schools in competition against one another in the belief it will drive improvements, the government is generating winners and losers among both schools and children.’

 

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