Richard Ellam is the Head of School and Trust Support at Inspiring Governance. Previously a trustee at two academy trusts, he is now Chair of Governors at Rockwood Academy in Birmingham. Richard has worked with hundreds of schools and trusts across England and has helped recruit many governors over the years. With this, Richard has put together four things that we’re learning about how to get ahead with your preparation before beginning governor recruitment activity.
1. Choose the right person to lead on your recruitment campaign
It’s essential that you have someone that has the time, skills, and networking skills necessary to recruit new governors to the board. This could be your chair, clerk, another governance professional or a member of the board. I recently worked with a maintained Primary school that was struggling to recruit new governors, where both the Chair and Clerk lacked the capacity to dedicate as much time as was needed. As soon as a retired member of the board with good communication skills and sufficient time to dedicate to the campaign became involved, the situation rapidly improved. The school now has seven volunteers interested in three roles and is going through a selection process, and I am informed that the board are confident of filling all of their vacancies.
2. Be clear what kind of volunteers you are looking for in the first place
It can be useful to conduct a skills audit to identify gaps. You can find one the National Governance Association’s website. This is also a good time to consider the diversity of thinking on your board and consider dynamics such as the breakdown of gender, ethnicity, and age – According to the National Governance Association annual school governance survey, only 4% of governors and trustees come from an ethnic minority, whilst 10% are aged under 40 with 1% aged under 30. Sometimes the addition of one or two new people can positively change the whole dynamic of a governing body so it can be a good time to think about the types of personal characteristics that the board would benefit from.
Be realistic with your expectations. If it’s historically hard to recruit to your board or your school, then adjust your expectations accordingly. At Inspiring Governance, we are increasingly being asked for help to recruit ‘outward thinking’ volunteers with no links to a school to help change the dynamic and increase diversity on governing boards. I recently assisted a tiny rural village school in the East Midlands to recruit two new governors for this very reason, as the rest of the governing board all had children at the school or close connections with it.
3. Create a recruitment pack
Creating a recruitment pack that covers the whole process gives you a chance to properly think the recruitment through, reach prospective volunteers, and run a clear and thorough recruitment. This could consist of:
- A bespoke advert
- A PDF document containing a clear outline of the role, the commitments and the school/MAT that serves to manage expectations on both sides
- An outline of the induction process and the training that new governors can expect to receive
There are lots of resources out there to help – check our selection at the end of the article.
4. Identify the channels and networks that you are going to use
In addition to independent recruitment services like Inspiring Governance, it’s always good to engage with local community groups, your PTA, local employers, professional networks, and your alumni. If you always have difficulty recruiting parent governors, speak to your teachers, especially pastoral staff – ask them to identify engaged parents. You may need to have an election but there is nothing to stop you inviting individuals to put themselves forward.
Remember that parents are stakeholders in your school – they have careers and their own networks. Ask them to help promote your governor vacancies and speak to other schools and discuss staff volunteering on each other’s boards. See our Educators on Board campaign to read more about the huge CPD benefits for educators who volunteer as school governors.
Get a story out in the local press highlighting good news at the school and mentioning your need for new governors and consider advertising on a volunteering website like ‘Get Volunteering’ or targeting potential volunteers directly on social media – LinkedIn would be a good place to start. Last but by no means least, identify and register with free services such as Inspiring Governance if you are recruiting Trustees.
In the words of Cervantes – to be prepared is half the victory!
At Inspiring Governance, we run a one hour online ‘lunch and learn’ training session every month to help our users get support when recruiting new school governance volunteers. You can register for our next sessions below:
Good luck with your governor recruitment search!
Inspiring Governance resources for governors – a collection of strategic resources