Inspiring Governance makes 5,000 matches!

Ding Ding, in the best traditions of the Blue Peter Totaliser we’re delighted to have reached 5,000+ matches in the last five years of providing the DfE funded Inspiring Governance recruitment service.

Delighted …but not complacent, and we have a continuing passion to achieve 5,000 more governor appointments, quicker and better than before. We are determined to play our part in meeting the governor recruitment challenge, ensuring schools have the continued robust support and oversight they need.

The last third of that first five years has been under the Covid-19 pandemic, where schools and their governing bodies have had to manage unprecedented challenges. The stoic support of existing governors (and the incredible response of new volunteers to take up the reins) has been an affirmation of the very best of human nature.

For much of these five years, we’ve delivered the IG service in partnership with the National Governance Association. This has ensured our governor appointments have had great induction support, ready guidance, and access to online training – helping them to quickly make effective contributions to their boards in the first 12 months.

So, if we do take a micro-moment to reflect five years on from where we started, what are five notable developments we’ve seen in school governor recruitment over those five years?

1. Due to the effort of everyone working in governance, potential volunteers are much clearer about the strategic role of the governing board. There is a greater awareness of both the role and the multiple pathways into becoming part of a governing board. This was evidenced in our Governing our Schools: 10 years on research which we undertook with the sector during 2019.

2. Employers and individual volunteers have a much deeper understanding of the multiple benefits of getting involved in school and college governance. These benefits range from staff skill development to productivity and motivation gains, through to the personal health and well-being benefits of feeling you are contributing to society. All these benefits are evidenced in our Value of Volunteering research, launched with the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) earlier this year.

Not forgetting of course, the huge benefits to schools themselves of volunteer governors ‘putting something back’. In all our volunteer surveys to date, making a difference to children’s lives remains the number one motivation for volunteers seeking to become school governors.

3. Governing Boards have continued to become ever more focussed on securing the right personal and professional skill sets to support the board in undertaking its oversight role. Some of these remain the same and – as you would expect – include financial expertise, HR expertise and school improvement knowledge. But it’s also clear that some skills have recently become more sought after like risk management, estates management and health and safety expertise. We will continue to talk to schools and colleges to understand their evolving needs and continue to work with professional associations to encourage volunteers with these backgrounds on to the IG portal.

4. There has always been a vital need to diversify recruitment to school and college governing boards and many have been actively campaigning for this for decades. In the last five years and, against an ever-widening gap between those making decisions in schools and the pupils receiving them, this has intensified. Our joint Everyone on Board campaign with the NGA has played its part in raising awareness and diversifying boards remains a priority for Ministers and the DfE. NGA’s recent research Increasing Participation in School and Trust Governance shows the importance of independent governor recruitment services providing a resource for boards to break the cycle of personal network-based recruitment. Governing boards also need to continue to understand their strategic role on overseeing race issues in schools

5. It’s clear that schools and trusts are taking an increasingly strategic approach to board recruitment. Some of this is due to better guidance (like the NGA’s The right people around the table) and some of it is due to LAs, Diocese and Trusts looking to recruit across their schools at scale, whilst also better targeting those schools most in need of new governors. We are continuing to feedback into the system what we are learning about school, and trust governor recruitment via our regular series entitled recruiter reflections.

Many structural challenges around governor recruitment remain, such as providing more choice of governor volunteers in rural and coastal areas and working hard to find more foundation governors for schools of a religious character. The public funding environment is also much changed and this year, although the NGA support offer unfortunately hasn’t been funded, we have endeavoured to try and provide a national recruitment service available to all whilst increasing our focus on the smaller number of schools who need our help most.


What will the next 5 years bring?

Well it’s clear that there will be continued changes, not least in the use of technology within governing board meetings and the evolution of a limited role for remote governance but also in the sought after skill sets and composition of governing boards. What ultimately remains unchanged though is the undimmed passion of all involved in governance to constantly seek incremental changes that secure good governance for all schools and for the corresponding impact this will have on children’s futures.

Thank you to everyone who has helped us hit the 5,000 appointments milestone. The DfE for their funding and advice, the NGA for their new governor support and strategic advice and the incredible support from volunteers, employers, and organisations alike – a huge thank you.

Here’s to the next 5,000 appointments! 🙌


Governing our Schools: 10 years on

The Value of Volunteering

Everyone on Board campaign

Recruiter reflections articles

From the NGA: Increasing participation in school and trust governance

From the NGA: The right people around the table