National education charity Governors for Schools has over 20 years’ experience placing volunteers as governors in schools across England. In this guest post, the charity explains how schools can keep volunteers engaged over the course of their term, delivering effective governance and improving outcomes for children.
Finding the right governors for your school’s board can be a difficult – and time consuming – task. Keeping volunteers engaged and motivated over the course of their term can be another task in itself, with governors often balancing careers and families around the role.
So how can schools keep their governing boards full and well-functioning? Follow our tips to keep your governors motivated, engaged, and ready to make a positive impact on education for children.
Hold meetings at convenient times
For many volunteers, leaving work in the middle of the day to attend a governing board meeting simply isn’t realistic. Where possible, hold meetings after the school day to cater for working governors, and especially those who don’t work nearby.
In the past few years we’ve seen more organisations supporting flexible working for employees. Many of our partners offer employees volunteering days, but even with an extra day or two a year, daytime meetings can make it tricky for some to attend.
The staff on your board will have had a long day, but if you’re committed to attracting a diverse board, including working professionals, part-time workers and retired volunteers, plan a schedule for meetings that accommodates everyone.
Do a skills audit
Accountants make great governors, but a board of accountants won’t give you the diversity of skills a strong board needs.
Find out which skills you have covered and base your search around the skills you’re missing. A school’s needs are constantly changing, so replacing a governor with the same skill set isn’t always the best approach. Your governing board knows the school’s needs, so use the opportunity to recruit a new governor to broaden the skills and experience on the board. It’s also a chance to find a volunteer with business or community links.
Build a diverse board to ensure robust decision making
Diversity on a governing board brings different perspectives and experience, and stops groupthink. Governors from a diverse range of professions and backgrounds can increase the likelihood of challenge, which is vital when making decisions that affect children’s education.
Consider also how well your board reflects the community you serve, as children need role models they can relate to. If your board is lacking diversity, think about ways you could reach under-represented groups. Are there people working in the community you could reach out to, to encourage those from under-represented groups to apply?
Have a recruitment and induction process – and stick to it
Our volunteers are excited to start their role as a governor, knowing that they’re contributing their skills and time for a worthy cause.
But this can turn to frustration when schools don’t respond quickly. Show volunteers their interest is valued by making sure the governing board gets in touch promptly to keep the process moving.
Having a single point of contact who manages governor recruitment means that messages don’t get lost and there’s no delay to the process. This could sit with the chair or development lead.
Ask your governing board to take prospective volunteers on a walk around the school to showcase the great work you’re doing, and set out the school’s ethos. This will help you get a feeling for whether the volunteer will be a good fit for your board.
Support new governors in their role
Training gives new governors confidence so that they can contribute effectively from their first day in the role.
Governors for Schools has extensive training resources, with free eLearning modules and regular webinars – plus all volunteers we place receive 12 months’ free access to The Key for School Governors.
Your local authority or trust will have training available – but don’t forget that something as simple as giving new governors a good understanding of the school’s history and culture can help them to feel included and up to date.
Buddying up a new governor with an existing board member can be a useful exercise. This doesn’t need to sit with the chair – it can be an informal arrangement.
Celebrate your governors’ work
Governors play a vital role in your school’s success – but how do you reflect that? For example, does your website highlight their work?
Recognition goes a long way, so think about ways to celebrate the work your governing board does. Do parents value the role? There’s lots of confusion about governors amongst the general public – our YouGov survey found that nearly a fifth (19%) of people don’t know what governors do, while nearly 3 in 10 (29%) think being a parent at the school is a requirement.
Make sure information about your governors is clear, and mention the board’s work in parents’ communication – especially when positive changes are made. Addressing confusion also means parents are well informed when a parent vacancy comes up.
Widen your networks
Governors without a direct connection to the school bring a fresh perspective to the board. They can support the school without the same assumptions and are able to question practices others with everyday involvement may gloss over.
Governors for Schools finds high-calibre volunteers for school boards across England. We support all types of schools and academies, including pupil referral units (PRUs) and nurseries, in finding governors free of charge.
Governors for Schools works with organisations across the country, including KPMG, Lloyds, Deutsche Bank, and Sainsbury’s to find skilled volunteers. We also work with universities, placing both staff and alumni across the country in governor positions.
Find a governor with Governors for Schools
Register your governor or trustee vacancies online with Governors for Schools. Use our online form to specify the skills and experience you’re looking for, and we’ll help you find a volunteer who best matches your requirements – at no cost to non-fee-paying schools.