Thinking of Becoming a Governor or Trustee?
The role of Governor or Trustee is very rewarding. Not only are you part of a collective group working to improve and develop schools, you will also support your own personal development. Governors and Trustees are critical in the effective management of schools and academy trusts. It is a voluntary role and requires commitment to attend meetings throughout the academic year focusing on the three main functions of governance:
Ensuring clarity of vision, ethos and strategic direction;
Holding executive leaders to account for the educational performance of the organisation and its pupils, and the effective and efficient performance management of staff; and
Overseeing the financial performance of the organisation and making sure its money is well spent.
What is the Difference Between a School/Academy and an Academy Trust?
Governors sit on a local governing board (LGB). In academies, these could be referred to as local boards, local academy boards, or local committees. In academy trusts, an additional layer of governance sits above the local governing boards called the Trust Board. Trustees sits on the Trust Board and have a strategic role in the management and performance of all the academy schools in its organisation. The three main functions are the same for Governors and Trustees, but often the skill set differs.
What Support Could I Receive as a New Governor or Trustee?
Each school, academy, and trust has their own approach to training. There are several options available such as in-house training, online modules through established organisations, and the skills and knowledge you will build whilst serving as a Governor or Trustee. Governors and Trustees are required to complete level 1 Safeguarding training which will be provided by your school or trust and often in the form of a short online training module. All Governors and Trustees are also required to read the Keeping Children Safe in Education document which is released by the DfE each summer for use in the September.
Those governing in academies and trusts may also need to complete cyber security training which is often in the form of watching a simple video; this is connected to insurance available to academies and trusts.
What Skills are Trusts, Academies, and Schools Looking For?
Each school, academy, and trust need to ensure they have a range of skills available to them and will often focus on key expertise area such as finance, HR, legal, estates and facilities, education and school improvement, and safeguarding. Some of these expertise areas will be covered by those who currently work, or have worked, in schools. A key priority for any board is to have a good mix of skills and experience and although some members will be from an education background, it is important to have real diversity in terms of age, disability, gender, ethnicity, and skills. Those governing in church schools and trusts will also seek to have representation from their respective faith organisations.
To be a an effective trustee or governor you need to have an analytical mind, be confident in asking questions, understand the role of a strategic executive leader, and commit to attending meetings and reading information prior to each meeting.
What Other Information Could I Consider?
The National Governance Association (NGA) is a membership body for all state schools in England. They represent the views of governors, trustees, and clerks and provide independent advice and resources. They work with the Department for Education to raise the profile of governance and to feed into policy change and national awareness.
Inspiring Governance works to increase the number of Governors serving in schools including a focus on diverse backgrounds. They are also working with schools who have been judged as Requires Improvement or below who are seeking support to ensemble a strong governing board.
Governors for Schools find and place volunteers on school and academy governing boards across England and Wales. Governors for Schools also support corporations across England and Wales to get their employees into governance, building connections with local communities and supporting professional development.