The government should test the idea of paying school governors in a bid to address shortages among disadvantaged communities, a new report says.
The wide-ranging document Who governs our schools?, which stresses the importance of local community engagement, also calls for teachers to be better informed about school governance.
Written by public policy analyst Tony Breslin for the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), and published this afternoon, it acknowledges differing views about the idea of paying school governors.
But it says: “There is a tendency to hold on to the notion of the ‘governor as volunteer’ as a sacred cow of school governance; often this is accentuated by a culture in which expenses are not claimed. There should be no sacred cows.”
It gives a number of grounds for considering the option, including shortages of volunteers in some economically disadvantaged areas, and childcare costs.
It recommends: “The Department for Education should encourage the establishment of one or more small-scale pilot projects in which there is some aspect of remunerated governance.”
It says such schemes could look at measures to help people in disadvantaged areas to take part in governance, paying specific post holders, ensuring neither employers or employees lose out financially from governing, and looking at the professional development the role could give governors in their outside life.
Shortage of volunteers to be governors
The report also calls for a campaign to make sure teachers are better informed about how governance works.
It warns that “governors’ meetings remain a secret garden accessed by the headteacher or executive head”, and calls for a public information campaign on school governance.
It also says there should be “a more targeted campaign to build understanding of governance amongst educational professionals and others who work in schools”.
The report adds: “Every member of the teaching profession has an entitlement to at least basic knowledge of how school governance works, not least because of its impact on their day-to-day professional lives.”
It also calls for action to make it easier for high-performing academy trusts to take on the most troubled schools.
The document says: “The reality is that a charity is unlikely to make commitments that will weaken its balance sheet and, therefore, its broader viability, not least because of the legal responsibilities that fall to trustees.”
To solve the problem, it recommends the government “reassesses the way in which MATs [multi-academy trusts] are constituted”, or provides special incentives or guarantees for MATs taking on such schools.
The report also says that addressing “patchy access to training for governors” should be an “urgent priority” for the DfE.
It warns that policymakers assume local voices are non-expert, and brands this “a presumption that is lazy intellectually and often factually untrue”.
It recommends that “policymakers should state a preference for governance expertise that is sourced from, and where necessary nurtured in, the local community”.