27 February 2024

How to find, recruit and retain a diverse school board

29 February 2024, National School Governors’ Awareness Day; a special occasion that honours and raises awareness about the crucial role school governors play in the education system. It could not come sooner.

With over 250,000 individuals volunteering for governor positions, they are an integral part of making sure our education system works effectively. Their dedication, hard work and impact across the country should not be underestimated. So why are we seeing so many school boards struggle to recruit a diverse range of these important volunteers? According to a recent school governor survey from GovernorHub, there are many factors, including limited awareness and visibility about the opportunities, which often results in a lack of diverse talent coming through in applications.

So much has been written about the benefits of a diverse governing body, not least that having greater diversity around the board room table results in a vastly improved performance and outcomes for all. What can be done to tackle the challenge and ensure a broader, more diverse, and representative group of volunteers are attracted to these important roles?

  • Engage with your local community

Have you considered going out to your local community to discuss the role of governor, or have you relied on your networks and contacts within the school gates? Have you taken visible action to promote the role of governor? Have you extolled the values of the school as well as the value you place on your governing body for their contribution?

  • Encourage greater levels of diversity in your applications pool

Sometimes, the smallest of changes can have the biggest of impacts. Have you considered changing the times of your meetings to attract individuals who may be tied up on shift work or must wait until partners are home to take over childcare? Have you advertised broadly or utilised community groups? Have you written job adverts that use inclusive and modern language? Is your application onerous and long winded? Have you considered giving interview questions to candidates upfront so that they can prepare better?

  • Develop your own talent

More and more boards are offering the opportunity for younger people to join them, with clear training programmes and mentorship in place to help develop the skills and expertise to make an effective contribution. By lowering the age demographic of a governing board, organisations are more likely to see greater representation from and interactions with the local community. By bringing new perspectives into the room, these governing bodies benefit enormously from fresh insights.

  • Keep working at it

Once you’ve put together your diverse governing body, it doesn’t end there. Ensuring and maintaining board ‘inclusion’ is very important, and will go a long way to making sure your governors want to stay the course. Papers should be written in ways that make them accessible to all, produced in a variety of formats according to need, and circulated, giving sufficient time for them to be read properly. Our education system is full of acronyms, and not everyone on the board will be familiar with them or know what they mean – avoid jargon! And not all members of the governing body will feel confident about speaking up or asking questions, so it’s important to ensure that meetings are run in ways that provide opportunities for everyone to have their say.

To attract and then maintain an inclusive board, schools need to be proactive in their approach. By being creative and not relying on traditional routes to market, schools will not only see a higher level of interest and participation in governor roles but a wealth of talent, expertise and insights, which can only be invaluable to the development of the institution’s own development and progress. Governor roles are for everyone; they provide an opportunity to become an active participant in the community, supporting the development of young people.

By taking positive action, and by adopting an uplifting narrative about your own school and the role of governor, surely the sky is the limit in terms of building a dynamic, inclusive and effective board?

Anderson Quigley is a supplier of recruitment services to the Schools sector and has a well-established Board Practice. With networks across the UK, Anderson Quigley has worked creatively and proactively with organisations to ensure greater levels of representation on Boards.

Helene has established Anderson Quigley’s Board Practice, working across all sectors to appoint Chairs and Non-Executive Directors. She has developed excellent networks across the public and private sectors to encourage greater levels of diversity around the Boardroom table. As well as providing bespoke services, advice and guidance to her clients and candidates Helene is highly motivated to provide careers advice and guidance to individuals, especially to those who have not previously considered a non-executive opportunity before but whom have unique insights and skills to offer.

You can contact her at helene.usherwood@andersonquigley.com or connect with her on LinkedIn.