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Academy and free-school governors should get time off work, says CBI

Governors of academies and free schools should be given time off work to carry out their school duties, according to the CBI.

While businesses are legally required to release their staff to carry out work as governors of maintained schools under local-authority control, the same statutory right does not currently extend to those on the governing bodies of academies and free schools.

But a new report from the CBI has called for the discrepancy to be addressed, arguing that the government must do more to encourage individuals from the business world to take up roles in education.

"The requirement for businesses to release their staff for governor duties should be extended to include academies and free schools as well as maintained schools,” the report says.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors' Association, said the discrepancy had emerged unintentionally. "In general terms, local authority maintained schools are more governed by regulations, whereas academies are [controlled through] contracts and funding agreements [with the Department for Education]. I'm sure this wasn't purposeful."

The NGA supported the CBI's calls for a change in the law, she added. In a recent poll of NGA members, 11  per cent said they had been denied time for governor duties by their employers, with a further 18 per cent admitting that they had not asked to be released.

The CBI report also called for more to be done to recruit primary governors, the report adds, due to the "particular importance" of raising standards in this area, with individuals with extensive industry experience described as being particularly desirable.

"There should be more interchange between the education sector and industry to ensure a better mix of skills, knowledge and experience in senior management teams in schools," it says.

However, the standard of governing bodies must improve, the report adds, if schools are to exploit new freedoms to set their own curriculum and teachers’ pay structures.

"Handing control over education to schools themselves is the right move," Neil Carberry, the CBI’s director for employment and skills policy, said.

“But it can only work if the quality of governing bodies is high and Ofsted holds them to account. We need strong leadership and even stronger governance.

"It's such a fundamentally important issue that business is happy to extend the obligation for firms to release staff for governor duties to be widened to academies and free schools."

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