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Universities should help recruit school governors

Universities should play a greater role in helping schools find high-quality school governors, a charity has said, after a two-year project saw a five-fold increase in the number of volunteers joining governing bodies.

Education charity SGOSS – Governors for Schools is calling for more universities to work with schools following a successful partnership with the University of Manchester that increased the institution's network of volunteer school governors from 50 to 250 in two years.

Earlier this year, a report by the National Governors’ Association highlighted recruitment as one of the biggest problems facing governing bodies, stating that: "Governing bodies need a larger pool of willing citizens who are ready to become governors."

The role of school governor took a further hit back in April when former 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 Kumbaya".

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".

And a recent survey by The Key, the online support service for school leaders, revealed that 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) said they did not believe governors get adequate recognition from the government, with just a little over a third (37 per cent) saying their employer provides them with additional benefits as a governor.

But according to SGOSS, universities can help counteract these concerns by hosting networking events, delivering presentations and raising awareness of the role through their vast number of connections, including academic staff, it said.

"One of the most requested skills we receive from schools for new school governors is experience in education. Therefore universities, who have a large network of students, staff and alumni can bring huge value to schools through governance," Janet Scott, SGOSS’ interim chief executive, said.

Professor Aneez Esmail, Associate Vice-President for Social Responsibility at Manchester University added: "We have been able to make a difference to the improvement of state schools through creating the fastest growth in volunteer governors of any UK employer. Universities have much to offer schools in terms of governance, not only from their pools of talented academic and professional services staff, but also through their vast communities of alumni.”

The University of Manchester’s School Governor Initiative has seen the institution generate a network of more than 250 volunteer governors, who are now serving or have served on school governing bodies up and down the country.

Related stories:

Survey reveals full dissatisfaction of England's governors - May 2014

School governors should act more like 'corporate boards' overseeing big business - Jan 2014

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