Only 21% of governors give Gove thumbs up

Survey suggests many are losing faith in government reforms

Stephen Exley

Negative prediction on school funding

The government's performance in education has failed to impress school governors, a survey has revealed.

Just 21 per cent of the 1,300 governors who took part in an exclusive poll carried out by TES and the National Governors' Association (NGA) gave a positive verdict on education secretary Michael Gove's reforms over the past two years. This represents just over half of the 40 per cent who gave a thumbs up to the coalition's performance 12 months ago.

Two-thirds of governors rated the government's performance as slightly or very negative.

"There does seem to have been a major shift in how governors are viewing the government's approach to education," said NGA chief executive Emma Knights. "Even those in academies who are in effect joining in with the government's agenda are not all completely convinced by it. Governors want to see more emphasis on what actually improves schools for pupils, especially those at the bottom of the pile, and not such an emphasis on structures."

But, overall, the survey reflected a mixed response to Mr Gove's reforms.

While classroom unions have unequivocally voiced their opposition to plans to introduce performance-related pay for teachers, governors seem to be much more amenable, with 54 per cent supporting the concept. "Some governors are subjected to performance-related pay themselves, and so are used to the idea and the practice," Ms Knights said.

But the majority are yet to be convinced by the case for regional pay for teaching staff: 51 per cent opposed it, while just 24 per cent came out in support of the move to end national pay deals. Sean Whetstone, a parent governor at Polesden Lacey Infant School in Surrey, said regional pay is "an emotive issue" for many governors, particularly those in less prosperous parts of the country, who fear the move would make recruitment more difficult.

Governing bodies are even less convinced by the Department for Education's moves to cut red tape: 79 per cent said they had seen no reduction in paperwork, despite the government's promises to eradicate unnecessary bureaucracy when it came to power.

And the jury is still out on the academies programme: while 26 per cent of academy governors said conversion had improved education standards in their school, 30 per cent said it had had no impact. The remaining 44 per cent said they were unsure.

Perhaps surprisingly, the overwhelming attitude towards paying governors was hostile, with 58 per cent opposing the idea and just 25 per cent backing it.

But there was some much-needed good news for Ofsted's chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw. Despite widespread criticism from teaching unions since he took the helm in January, governors are much more sympathetic to the watchdog. Eighty-one per cent said they agreed or strongly agreed that their school's most recent report had painted a "fair and accurate" picture.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said reforming the pay structure is "fundamental to driving up teacher quality". "The current pay system is rigid, complex and difficult to navigate. It does not support schools to recruit and retain the high-quality teachers or leaders they need," she added.

In response to survey's damning verdict on the government's performance, the spokeswoman said: "We are driving through an ambitious programme of significant reforms to the education sector. We are driving up standards right across the board by restoring order to our classrooms, bringing the best graduates into teaching and developing a world-class curriculum.

"We are making the lives of governors easier by scaling back unnecessary bureaucracy, helping them to drive up standards."

Survey findings

Do you support the introduction of regional, local or zonal pay for teachers?

Yes 24.0%

No 51.2%

Unsure 24.8%

Do you support performance-related pay for teachers?

Yes 54.0%

No 29.1%

Unsure 16.9%

Academy governors only: has your school made use of the flexibility allowed by the Academies Act by altering teachers' pay and conditions?

Yes 3.9%


Unsure 9.9%

Give your verdict on how the coalition government has performed in education during its first two years in power.

Very positive 2.3%

Cautiously positive 18.5%

No view 11.8%

Slightly negative 30.6%

Very negative 36.7%.

Original headline: Only 21% of governors give Gove the thumbs up

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Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley

Stephen Exley is a freelance writer, director of external affairs at Villiers Park Educational Trust and former FE editor at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @stephenexley

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