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Tuesday, 26 December, 2000, 00:01 GMT
In search of school governors
Schools are facing a shortage of governors
Thousands of vacancies for inner city school governors in England remain unfilled, most notably in London.

Figures from the School Governors One-Stop Shop (Sgoss) suggest that while the national vacancy rate stands at 5-10%, some inner cities have a rate of over 30%.

People need to get involved in an inclusive community

David Wright
Sgoss - set up as a charity under the government's Excellence in Cities initiative - is hoping to ease the problem by recruiting people with transferable management skills from the private, public and voluntary sector.

By 2003, it aims to find 3,500 governors across 47 local education authorities - 850 of which are for London alone.

The charity has already exceeded its year 2000 recruitment target of 550 new governors.

School autonomy

As schools become more autonomous, individuals with business skills are invaluable, the charity says.

Sgoss is looking specifically for people with the following skills:

  • marketing
  • strategic planning
  • financial planning
  • problem solving
  • personnel
  • project management
  • team working
  • decision making.
Business development director Hedley Harper said the organisation worked like a brokerage which supported applications, passing them on to relevant schools.

"I am confident we will meet our targets - we've done so for this year.

Hedley Harper
Hedley Harper: Encouraged by the response
"It is very challenging, but we are very encouraged by the level of interest people are showing."

Niall Campbell, business development manager, said there were many reasons for the shortage of governors.

"People with transferable management skills don't tend to live in inner-cities," he said.

"And there's no media coverage of school governors, other than in St Trinian's films, which doesn't give a very good image."

Many potential governors were under the false impression that they had to be a parent to become a governor, he added.

Sgoss hopes to raise awareness about the role of governors and the difference they can make to schools.

Community spirit

There was also a responsibility on the part of those with management skills, according to marketing manager David Wright.

"People have got to realise there is a need here. People need to get involved in an inclusive community and take responsibility," he said.

Following the 1980's culture of long working hours and high pressure, companies were becoming more community-minded, he added, offering more support to employees who wanted to get involved.

The application form for becoming a school governor is self-selecting, asking candidates to outline their management experience.

The normal term of office for a governor is four years. Sgoss estimates a time commitment of three to five hours a month.

Proof of the pudding

The major conurbations concerned are Manchester, Salford, Leeds, Bradford, Merseyside, Sheffield, Rotherham, Birmingham, London, Teeside, Tyne and Wear, Nottingham, Stoke, Hull Bristol and Leicester.

Leicester City Council's education department says its drive to recruit governors last term was a "huge success", with the appointment of 181 new governors.

Education officer Trevor Pringle said: "I know that our new recruits will make a real difference in their schools.

"Vacancies occur regularly and we are always happy to hear from people who are thinking about volunteering to become a governor."

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See also:

01 Jul 99 | UK Systems
Funding and management
20 Sep 00 | Education
Parents to speak up on schools
12 Nov 99 | Education
Training plan for school governors
17 Nov 00 | Education
School governors face reduced powers
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