School governors contribute more than £1 billion a year to the education budget in England, according to the largest report ever undertaken on school governance.
The survey of more than 7,700 governors, carried out by the University of Bath and the National Governors’ Association, reports that they give on average more than 17 hours of their time a month to their schools.
When this is costed, the estimated contribution to the education budget is more than £1 billion annually, it claims.
The report concludes that while school governance appears to be functioning well and moving in the right direction, schools are still experiencing problems recruiting governors, which undermines the overall effectiveness of many governing bodies.
Although recruitment is difficult across all settings, it is particularly hard in primary schools and special schools, as well as those serving disadvantaged areas. Schools in urban areas, those with below-average attainment, those with poor Ofsted reports and non-academies also experienced difficulties.
As well as a shortage of parent governors, there are particular shortages of potential staff governors and those drawn from the wider community.
However, respondents did not see raising the profile of the role as a way to improve recruitment.
Instead, they said it would be more helpful to have greater recognition of the contribution that school governors make, particularly from government.
Governor induction, training and development appear to have improved in recent years, the report says, though governors of schools in “challenging circumstances” could get more involved in training and development.
While all governing bodies strongly prioritise matters relating to their school’s educational and financial performance, they give less priority to longer term strategic issues.
The report says: “This is a matter of particular concern given increasing levels of institutional autonomy and independence as more schools take on academy status.”
It concludes that governing schools in all settings is becoming more challenging, especially in those settings where it is particularly hard already.
However, it adds: “Despite the challenges – and maybe even because of them – respondents across all schools in all settings typically say they find school governing enjoyable.”
To coincide with the publication of the report, a new alliance is being launched today to celebrate and promote the importance of high quality school and college governance.
The Inspiring Governors Alliance, which includes the government, employer representatives, and education bodies, aims to inspire more high calibre people to volunteer.
Education secretary Michael Gove was due to recognise the “valuable contribution” of governors at the event at London’s Guildhall this morning.
He will say: “The future of our school system is in their hands as they hold school and college leaders to account for improving performance and scrutinising finances. There has never been a more important time to be a governor.”
More than 100 employers will gather at the event to hear about the benefits of supporting their employees to become governors.
Neil Carberry, director for employment and skills at the CBI, will say: “There’s no better or more strategic way for business to support and influence the education system and our future workforce than through school governance.
All the evidence and the experience of an increasing number of businesses is that it also delivers significant benefit to employees and their employer through the strategic board level skills they develop and bring back into the workplace.”
For more information, visit www.inspiringgovernors.org