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New report shines light on school governing boards’ lack of diversity

A new report from GovernorHub has exposed the lack of diversity on school governing boards in England, revealing the majority of school governors and trustees to be white, older, and educated to at least graduate degree level.
These findings demonstrate the limited representation pupils have on their schools governing boards, in the midst of calls for schools to do more to protect and safeguard Black pupils, following widespread public outrage at the treatment of Child Q.
The report, which surveyed 4,006 serving school governors and trustees and polled 1,901 members of the public, showed 90% of school governors and trustees describe themselves as white, with only 8% combined identifying as a different ethnic group.
A disproportionately high 79% of governors are educated to at least graduate degree level, with over a third (36%) having been educated to post-graduate, doctorate, or equivalent level. Meanwhile more than half of governors who responded to the survey said they were aged 55 or over, and nearly a third were 65 or over.
Despite the clear need for greater representation on school boards, the report also showed that there is little public understanding of the critical importance of governing bodies within schools, which could play a part in the lack of diversity. The report found that younger people and those from diverse backgrounds are in fact more likely to be interested in the role of school governor – they just need more information on it.
Most respondents to the public poll did not recognise that governors and/or trustees are responsible for monitoring a school’s strategic direction, educational performance or financial performance (the three core functions of governance), and where they did, it was rare for their answers to indicate a consistent understanding across all three functions.
Similarly, when asked about a perhaps more typically relatable topic, school food, only a small proportion of the public recognised that it’s the role of governors to monitor that school dinners meet the school food standards.
This lack of awareness is felt by governors and trustees too, with 82% saying the public does not understand their role, and more than a third saying they had never seen an article in the mainstream press about governance.
In light of the report’s discoveries, GovernorHub has outlined a number of recommendations to help tackle some of the challenges governing boards face. This includes asking the media to ensure that governance is fully and properly represented in stories relating to education and schools and requiring the government to make sure that there is more of a focus on the input of governors and trustees.
The report also calls for schools, trusts and their boards to do more to find younger and more diverse candidates and consider conscious recruitment and reaching out to organisations like the National Black Governors Network to help them do so.
Neil Collins, Director of GovernorHub at The Key Support
“These findings paint a full and revealing view of governing boards across England, confirming an urgent need for action to ensure boards are more representative of society as a whole.
“We need boards that accurately and effectively understand the issues facing young people from all walks of life. Schools need to be looking into how to recruit those people, to ensure that pupils have the representation they deserve on school boards.
“GovernorHub is pledging to help broaden the talent pool by collecting, publishing and tracking data on board diversity through a new, publicly available tool. Our hope is that, in monitoring and reporting this data, we can work with the sector to make sure that every single person in the country who has the skills and passion to make a difference to the future of young people, is given the chance to get involved.”

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