Judith Hicks & Shelby Roberts: Inspiring Governance – the benefits of volunteering in schools

Judith will be contributing to the panel at our early careers summit this July where she will be discussing how educational institutions are evolving to ensure students are work-ready. Hear more about the National Governance Association here.

Inspiring Governance is a Department of Education funded project to recruit, train and develop volunteers to serve as governors and trustees in state funded schools in England. The National Governance Association (NGA) is partnering the charity Education and Employers to deliver the project.

The IG project uses online matching technology, supported by Inspiring Governance Regional Managers to ensure skilled volunteers are matched to the school governing boards who need them; the right person in the right place at the right time.

Inspiring Governance offers twelve months of free training and support to all governors appointed through the project including:

• access to the NGA guidance centre
• a dedicated telephone and email support service
• a login for Learning Link – access to e-learning induction modules
• copies of NGA’s induction guides: Welcome to Governance or Welcome to a Multi-Academy Trust
• If aged under 40, membership of the
Young Governor Network

Currently approximately 300,000 volunteers serve as school governors and trustees – however there are still around 10,000 vacancies across schools in England.

One of the key aims of the project is to recruit younger people to serve as governors. According to the 2016 TES/ NGA survey, only 10% of governors are under 40 years of age so there is a real need to raise the profile and benefits of governing to younger people.

It is a myth that you have to be a parent to be a governor – anyone over 18 years of age can be a school governor or trustee. Subject to certain legal restrictions, governance is for everyone. Modern governance is a very different role than many people perceive – school governors are the strategic partners of the school senior leadership team, with the board of governors taking on the role of non-executive directors, focusing on three key strategic roles:

• creating the schools vision and strategic plan
• holding the Head Teacher to account for the educational performance of the school
• ensuring the schools financial resources are well managed

The inspiring governance project is working with organisations’ to promote governance and ask that employers support and encourage their staff to govern. From the employers’ perspective, supporting your staff to govern is a “win-win” situation. In September 2014, the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) published the research report Volunteering to Learn: Employee Development though Community Action. The report outlines a strong link between volunteering as a school governor and the development of key competencies: community awareness, confidence, communication, networking and professional knowledge which can really benefit career development. Employees can gain skills and experience though:

• drafting the school strategic plan
• analysing school performance data
• working as part of a diverse team to focus on school improvement
• performance managing the Head Teacher; conducting performance reviews and setting objectives
• overseeing the school budget and long term financial forecasts
• overseeing the pay policy and review performance related pay decisions
• working in partnership with school leaders and stakeholders

Often graduate trainees and higher level apprentices will not have the opportunity to be exposed to these roles until later in their careers – but as a school governor they can gain these valuable skills much earlier.

An aspect of the inspiring governance project is to work with employers who are keen to support their employees who govern. The best examples of organisations working with schools and governors have included; employees being given paid time off to govern, governor network meeting for employees who govern to share experience and expertise and creating measurable links between the work governors do, the skills they develop and their individual career development in the workplace.

For example; some organisations encourage employees who govern to capture the skills they have gained in their annual performance review at work – thus highlighting the transferable skills and supporting professional development.

Governing boards need a range of skills – The Right People Around the Table – and many organisations’ have people who have those skills; finance, HR, project management, legal, marketing and business development. It makes sense to support employees to enable them to use those skills to support local schools and in return, gain additional skills and experience as well as the knowledge that they have given back something to an educations system from which they have benefitted.

If you would like to know more about supporting your employees to govern and the benefits both for the individual and your organisation, visit www.inspiringgovernance.org

About Judith Hicks

Judith has been a Chair of Governors since 2010. Judith has recently joined the NGA as Head of Inspiring Governance; the project which will manage a governor recruitment & development service.
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