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Governors fear - lack of support as savings drive looks to cull training

Advice and training for governors are facing the chop as local authorities plan for massive across-the-board savings, the body which oversees them has warned.

A survey by the National Co-ordinators of Governor Services (NCOGS) has revealed concerns that cost savings are likely to affect support at a time when governors begin to take a greater role than ever in running schools.

The organisation's chairman, David Marriott, has expressed grave concerns that if governor services are affected, there will be few private providers to step into the breach, as there is little money to be made from it.

"My big concern is for the governors who are reliant on the local authority for training and advice is there is not much indication that someone will come along and fill the gap," he said. "Fears of the services disappearing have become the number one issue at governor conferences."

The survey, which had responses from 70 out of 150 local authorities, revealed that 24 governor services co-ordinators thought the size of their teams would be reduced in the next three years.

One co-ordinator, whose department is under review as part of plans to reduce posts at the local council, said: "Aspects of the governor support service are likely to be given to corporate central services who have no knowledge of school governance.

"We will lose touch with our governing bodies. We don't even know if there will be a governor support service beyond the end of this financial year, so planning for anything is very difficult."

Another said their department had been warned of a "very significant reduction in budget" over the next three years.

And a third complained that they had been forced to take on additional responsibilities with no extra pay or support, and described the situation as "very demotivating".

"[There is] insufficient time to do all aspects of the job to the standard we would like," they said, reiterating concerns that the quality of provision could be hit. One survey participant had already applied for voluntary redundancy because "the writing was on the wall".

Mr Marriott explained that although the majority of governor services departments relied on subscriptions from schools, some were reliant on the local authority for funding, and were, therefore, particularly vulnerable.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors' Association, which has been campaigning for mandatory training for governors and chairs of governors, said local government cutbacks could be a "step backwards".

"We have serious concerns that local authorities in some parts of the country may have reduced their capacity to support governors," she said. "But we hope that this support doesn't get lost.

"A key fear is that changes are already being made, before the comprehensive spending review has even been announced."

However, the Association of School and College Leaders did not express the same fears.

The union's general secretary, Brian Lightman, seemed happy to let the market rule, in an era of increasing numbers of academies independent of local authorities.

"If the quality becomes variable, and it isn't at the required standard, it will be up to schools to go elsewhere," he said.

Charge sheet

300,000 - Number of governors in the UK, spread over 21,400 maintained schools. Those recruited by the School Governors' One-Stop Shop are 52 per cent female and 48 per cent male.

3% Percentage of recruited governors aged between 18 and 24. Thirteen per cent are aged 55 to 64.

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