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Governing bodies should ditch 'passengers' and slim down, says minister

Local authorities should take a hard line with school governing bodies and use new regulations to get rid of “passengers” who are not performing to high enough standards, a schools minister urged today.

According to Conservative peer Lord Nash, many governing bodies are too big to provide effective leadership to schools and should be slimmed down.

In a letter to local authority directors of children’s services, he said the transition to a new governance structure represented an opportunity to review the role of both governing bodies and individual governors.

All maintained schools need to adopt the new arrangements, allowing greater flexibility in the size and structure of governing bodies, by September 2015.

Lord Nash said that no existing governor need stand down, but added: “Treating transition as a paper exercise would waste an ideal opportunity for each governing body to review its effectiveness, membership and structure.”

He said that governors should be appointed for their skills, not on the basis of who they were or who they represented. “Your priority must be to see every governing body constituted with governors who have the relevant skills to contribute to effective governance, encouraging ineffective governors to stand down and be replaced by new strong governors,” he said.

“Governing bodies cannot afford to carry passengers.”

He said that each governing body should determine how many members it needed, but added: “I am not shy of saying that I believe many are currently too large to provide the effective, cohesive and dynamic non-executive leadership our schools need.”

Lord Nash, who also chairs the Future Academies chain, said that many governing bodies did not look hard enough to find new governors with the necessary skills.

Today’s letter to local authorities comes after a letter from the minister to chairs of governors last month, in which he urged them to be prepared to suspend governors who failed to attend training sessions or uphold the school’s “professional ethos”.

Related stories: 

Get tough with unprofessional governors, schools told - 11 Sept 2014

Survey reveals full dissatisfaction of England's governors - 24 May 2014 

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