“We recognise that having independent, good people on our governing boards can add volumes, but many schools know it can be difficult to keep a high number of governors”, says Warren Carratt, CEO of Nexus MAT.
“It’s really important to have people external of our schools involved in governance, because they bring fresh perspectives. With no personal connection to the school, they can ask different questions, be objective and take a new look at what we are doing. So long as they have synergy with our values and we are confident that they have the potential to be a good governor, we’re happy to have them,” says Warren. “We have high number of parent governors but as our pupils come in from a large geographical area to our special schools, they aren’t necessarily from a local community as such, it’s a cross section of people coming in from all over.”
A challenge for Nexus MAT to getting volunteers from outside the schools’ immediate network is that the governing boards’ need to conduct all of their business during the school day. “We could not legitimise moving this outside of the school day because our committed parent governors will need to be taking care of their children outside of school, as many of them have complex needs,” Warren explains.
As CEO of the trust, Warren is responsible for overseeing governance at Nexus MAT on behalf of Trustees. The trust of four special schools in Rotherham and Doncaster takes a central approach to finding volunteers for their local governing boards (LGBs), with the LGB determining the appointment of any suitable volunteers.
Warren signed up to Inspiring Governance to recruit more volunteers to the schools’ LGBs. “Our approach is to find good individuals with the qualities of curiosity and commitment and the potential to be good governors – then we grow, develop and nurture them,” says Warren. Through Inspiring Governance, Warren was able to contact ten local people interested in becoming governors. Of the ten people he contacted, six responded positively.
Further conversations with the volunteers enabled Warren to explore why they wanted to join the governing board and their background to assess their compatibility with the role and whether they have the cognition to be good at governance. “We need to interview for quality but also ensure that the process is reasonable and proportionate to the role, as they’re all doing this as volunteers” says Warren.
Suitable volunteers were then put in touch with the respective chair of governors and headteacher so that they could meet the volunteer and show them the context of the school. “This is so both sides can do undertake some quality assurance. Visiting the school evokes a sense of community and interest from volunteers, and enables both sides to assess whether they can commit the time and energy to the role,” Warren says. “If everyone is happy, volunteers will be recommended for appointment to the local governing board.”
One of the new governors appointed within Nexus MAT works for Sheffield Hallam University and signed up to volunteer as a result of Inspiring Governance’s partnership with the university. “It is a service that is a conduit between large, regional employers and the local community, and having a free service that shoulders a chunk of the work in getting people interested in becoming a school governor, like working with employers to help them understand the benefits of supporting school governance, can only be beneficial for schools,” Warren adds.
“I’m very impressed with Inspiring Governance, both in the response from volunteers and in the support available. The induction provided by the National Governance Association is in step with how the trust inducts new governors and I will continue to use and recommend the service to others”, Warren concludes.