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School governors should act more like 'corporate boards' overseeing big business

School governing bodies will be expected to “act more like corporate boards” and only appoint new members with the “skills and experience to drive school improvement”, under new proposals.

As part of what the Department for Education describes as a move towards a "more professional standard of school governance”, it will introduce tougher requirements for new governors.

"This could include specific skills such as an ability to understand data or finances as well as general capabilities such as the capacity and willingness to learn,” acccording to a consultation launched today.

However, the move comes as many schools are struggling to recruit sufficient governors. Earlier this month, Governors for Schools claimed that one in ten positions were unfilled, with the figure rising to one in four in some parts of the country.

Despite calls from Ofsted's chief inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, for school governors to be paid, the government has not moved towards implementing this change.

If the plans are formalised, the changes would come into effect for local authority, foundation, partnership and appointed parent governors. There are no plans to amend regulations for staff or elected parent governors.

The plans will also only affect local-authority run schools and not the growing numbers of academies and free schools, which operate under different regulations.

“The best businesses have a skillful board of directors keeping them on the right path,” said schools minister Lord Nash. “I want to see the same approach in schools. Our proposals will ensure governing bodies in local-authority-run schools have the people they need to drive up standards.”

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors’ Association, said that the move would help to ensure that schools do not "fail".

“Organisations with good governance do not fail, and we need to ensure that schools have the best governance possible," she said.

"This starts with the recruitment of a good group of diverse people with the time, the necessary range of skills and experience and the commitment to improving the education of children and young people.”

Sean Whetstone, chair of governors at a school in Surrey, said that he broadly welcomed the latest announcement, but called for companies to be given tax breaks to allow their most skilled staff to take time off work as governors.

"These skilled people are valuable to their employers as well," he said. "We need to incentivise employers to release people to work in local schools."

The consultation on the proposals ends on 14 March.

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