Last reviewed 12 July 2017

Last October saw the launch of Inspiring Governance, a new website to encourage people to come forward and volunteer for school governance. The Inspiring Governance service has now been supported by the publication of new guidance on how to recruit and retain new governors and trustees to school and academy boards. This has been an area subject to considerable change in recent years, not only as the nature of governance has changed but as the means of reaching out to people and sharing vacancies has also modernised. Martin Hodgson, a former school governor of 15 years, looks at the guidance.

Inspiring Governance

Inspiring Governance is a free online recruitment service which seeks to connect volunteers interested in serving as governors and trustees with schools and colleges who have governance vacancies.

The website can be found at www.inspiringgovernance.org.

The site is run by the charity Education and Employers in partnership with the NGA (under its new title National Governance Association). It is supported by a range of other stakeholders in supporting school governance, including the Academy Ambassadors Network, the Association of School and College Leaders and the National Association of Head Teachers.

Described as a “matchmaking” service, prospective volunteers can use the site to find out more about school governance and to register their interest online. People who have an account with the Inspiring the Future website, which is accessed by over 6000 schools, can express interest by adding “School Governor” to their profile.

School recruiting boards can register and use the site to search for volunteers who have the skills and experience they need. Once suitable volunteers have been found, the school can then send them an invitation.

As well as for single schools or academies, the site can also help recruit to federations and multi-academy trusts (MATs).

Inspiring Governance is funded to 2020 by the Department for Education (DfE).

The new recruitment guide

The Inspiring Governance initiative has been supported by the publication of new guidance, The Right People Around the Table. The guidance has been produced by the NGA and Education and Employers and is supported by the DfE.

The guide is divided into five sections.

  1. Evaluating: composition and current practice.

  2. Recruiting: attracting good candidates.

  3. Appointing: interviewing and references.

  4. Inducting: training and support.

  5. Succession planning: ensuring there is leadership of the board.

The guide covers in depth how a governing body should go about evaluating the range of knowledge and skills currently possessed by the board, as well as evaluating its structures, current practices and whether everyone is being used in the best way.

Boards are advised to use the NGA’s free skills audit and matrix tools to determine what skills the governing body already has and what it is missing. The guide also recommends using the new competency framework for governance published in January 2017 by the DfE. This document categorises the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for effective governance in schools, academies and MATs.

Useful material in the guide includes:

  • how to evaluate the current practice of the board

  • advice on making boards more diverse and inclusive

  • tips to getting more participation from under-represented groups

  • using exit interviews to reflect on the work of the board.

Methods for attracting good quality candidates are also covered in some detail, including:

  • how to set up a panel to co-ordinate the recruitment process

  • methods of appointment

  • agreeing the role description

  • deciding where and how to advertise

  • shortlisting, interviewing and making recommendations to appoint

  • taking up references and other checks.

The guide describes the work of “volunteer banks” such as Inspiring Governance, Academy Ambassadors and Do-it, a national volunteering database. It also recommends making links with local businesses where volunteers will have transferable skills to bring from their professional lives.

It is essential that governing boards are committed to training new governors and trustees. The guide therefore includes information about how induction training should be set up and what opportunities there are. The guide explains that schools which are GOLD members of the NGA are entitled to receive a copy of their induction materials, Welcome to Governance for local authority maintained schools, and Welcome to a Multi-Academy Trust in the case of MATs.

Induction training should be tailored to the individual, the NGA states, and should include external training courses wherever appropriate.

The Right People Around the Table includes a handy list of materials and information that should be given to a new governor or trustee, and describes the online NGA Learning Link training for school governors, trustees and clerks that will be available from the summer of 2017. Learning Link will also feature eight new induction modules for governors and trustees to use for free when they are placed using the Inspiring Governance system.

Other free support that the NGA says it will provide when volunteers become governors or trustees through Inspiring Governance includes:

  • access to telephone and email support

  • access to NGA’s Guidance Centre

  • membership of the Young Governors’ Network.

Finally, the guide provides tips for retaining governors and trustees and for succession planning, ensuring there is ongoing leadership of the board. It stresses the importance of retaining good governors and trustees, but also highlights the importance of having a healthy cycle of new recruits.

Appendix 1 provides a sample scoping email to local businesses encouraging organisations to consider supporting governance volunteers. Appendix 2 provides a sample application form and Appendix 3 and a sample declaration of interests form.

NGA changes its name to National Governance Association

The NGA has been given permission by the Charity Commission to change its name. Formerly the National Governors’ Association, the NGA will now be known as the National Governance Association.

The change was voted on by NGA members at their annual general meeting last November.

The NGA states that its new name is intended to be more inclusive and reflect changes that have occurred over the last decade, signalling that the charity is open to support all those involved in school governance, not just those specifically referred to as governors. For example, the rebranding of the charity is designed to make it clear that the large numbers of trustees serving on the governing boards of academies are welcome as members, as well as people such as clerks and governance managers who work so hard across the country to ensure that schools are successful.

There is no change to the functions or status of the NGA. Members can still use the association to access guidance, legal advice and training services.

Making the announcement, Ian Courtney MBE, Chair of the NGA, said: “Our name will be different but our aim remains the same: to improve the education of children and young people in England by promoting high standards in schools and improving the effectiveness of their governance. NGA is a charity that gets things done and so we are not going to spend lots of time or money rebranding. This is a subtle change but an important one — recognising the many roles that make up school governing boards. Now we get on with providing leadership to the sector and supporting our members in the way we always have.”

The NGA has updated its website and will be refreshing its other online and printed materials on a rolling basis from the beginning of April. Its website remains at www.nga.org.uk.