An academy trust in Newcastle is one of 175 schools and trusts across the North East registered to use a free service which enables schools to connect directly with volunteers who want to become school governors in the region.
Newcastle East mixed multi Academy Trust (NEAT) formed as a community-based trust in 2017 and runs five schools across Newcastle, each with its own local governing committee. NEAT has used Inspiring Governance across all its schools to fill a range of vacancies and has so far appointed eight volunteers across four schools.
“Our local governing committees ended up with a number of vacancies within a six month period due to natural turnover.” says Hannah Hales, Governance Support Adviser at NEAT.
As the ‘eyes and ears’ of the trust board on the ground, NEAT’s local governing committees have delegated responsibility for monitoring and scrutinising in-depth the performance of schools: the skills that Hannah is looking for in new volunteers vary for each school but a strong education background, with understanding of school improvement and data is always helpful.
The trust manages its governance recruitment centrally – when there is a vacancy, Hannah identifies the skills that new volunteers will need, searches on Inspiring Governance for suitable candidates and invites them to learn more about the vacancy. Once a volunteer shows an interest, Hannah speaks to them by phone, and they then visit the school to meet the chair and headteacher. If both the volunteer and school are happy with the match, the local governing committee makes a recommendation to the trust board who then decide whether to make the appointment.
“The eight governors we have found through Inspiring Governance so far are such a strong fit for the skills we need”, Hannah says. Those appointed include a School Business Manager from a maintained school; someone who works for an exam board; an ex-teacher studying for a PhD in education; an employee of the NHS research institute who has lots of experience of governance in a different context, an assistant head from another academy trust and an employee of the Department of Education.
“It is very helpful if you are struggling to recruit governors, and puts you in touch with new people – rather than relying on networks or recommendations,” says Hannah. “Our appointments are people we didn’t know before and that we wouldn’t have been able to approach without the help of the platform”.
The free training and support provided by the National Governance Association is also viewed positively by NEAT. “We already see NGA membership as a worthwhile investment for the trust and our schools” says Hannah “but to know that the new governors get support above and beyond what membership offers is very helpful for them”.
Some final words of guidance from Hannah. “My advice is to invest the time in exploring and using Inspiring Governance and getting used to it. There is no cost or downside, and for us it has brought contact with volunteers that we wouldn’t have found on our own.”