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Survey reveals full dissatisfaction of England's governors

Almost two-thirds of governors believe the role is unattractive to volunteers, with "high expectations" and a "lack of recognition" cited as the main reasons behind the turn off.

Three-quarters (74 per cent) of those surveyed by The Keythe online support service for school leaders, do not believe governors get adequate recognition from the government, with more than a third (37 per cent) saying their employer provides them with additional benefits as a governor.

Fergal Roche, chief executive of The Key, said the results of the survey of more than 1,000 governors revealed a “growing distance between government’s vision for a more robust, professional, up-to-date model for school governance and the reality of how governors are actually treated”.

The findings also suggest a deep-rooted concern about how school governors think their role is perceived, with 64 per cent saying it is unattractive to volunteers. A fifth of governors say they spend at least seven days a month on governing body duties.

“Governors’ responsibilities are increasing – they not only hire headteachers and assist with senior appointments, but also agree school strategy and are held to increasing account by Ofsted for pupils’ results. It may be a voluntary role but it is one which has enormous impact on the nation’s children and young people,” Mr Roche added.

The research comes just weeks after education secretary Michael Gove told governors to "toughen up", adding that being a governor was not "just a touchy-feely, sherry pouring, cake-slicing exercise in hugging each other and singing Kumbayah". 

Speaking at the launch of the Inspiring Governors' Alliance, aimed at recruiting more volunteers to take on the role, Mr Gove said being a governor was about "asking tough questions".

The Key's survey also revealed concerns among governors about government policy, with 60 per cent responding that they were dissatisfied with the government’s performance in education.

However Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governors Association (NGA), painted a more optimistic view of school governance.

A survey of 7,500 governors published earlier this month, carried out by the NGA and the University of Bath, revealed that while 60 per cent of governors found the work challenging, 75 per cent said they enjoyed being a governor.

“Being a school governor is difficult, it’s a challenge, but it’s very rewarding and most governors say it’s enjoyable and that they would recommend it to other people,” Ms Knights said. “Volunteers are still coming forward.”

Earlier this month, a similar survey of headteachers produced by The Key showed that more than 80 per cent of heads believe staff morale has become worse since the coalition came to power in 2010.

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