Page last updated at 10:01 GMT, Thursday, 8 May 2008 11:01 UK

Move to bolster school governors

Teacher and pupils
Governors are unpaid volunteers who usually have links to a school

One in 10 governors' posts are vacant at schools in England, according to the latest government research.

The figures were published as work begins on plans to improve and strengthen school governing bodies.

A study in 2007 suggested one in five head teachers thought their governors were ineffective. The same proportion said they were very effective.

Children's secretary Ed Balls said good governors were key to turning round under-performing schools.

This is not about making governing bodies paid professionals - the voluntary ethos is here to stay.
Ed Balls
Children's Secretary

As the working group advising ministers on how to strengthen school governance meets for the first time, he said: "We need all governing bodies to lead the work of school improvement.

"Strong governors are central to turning around underperforming schools and will be key to raising standards in our 638 National Challenge schools, where less than 30% get five A* to C GCSEs, including English and maths.

"This is not about making governing bodies paid professionals - the voluntary ethos is here to stay.

"It is about making sure they have the right professionalism, skills and focus on holding schools to account and being accountable themselves to children, parents and local communities."

There are between 235,00 and 350,000 school governors in England, but 11% of posts remain vacant.

Schools in inner city areas find it particularly tough to fill their posts.

Question of size

Government research shows that in schools which are judged by Ofsted to be inadequate, governing bodies fail to hold leaders to account.

It also suggested the governors did not adequately monitor the schools in question to know their strengths and weaknesses.

The ministerial working group on school governance will develop plans to give every school a smaller and better trained governing body.

It will consider how governing bodies can best give a clear strategic direction, as well as listen to parents and local communities.

The group will look at the effectiveness of how governing bodies work currently and consider how they can be made more accountable.

Its original remit was to look at the size of governing bodies, but this was widened to what Mr Balls called a "root and branch review".


Dr John Dunford, general secretary of head teachers' representative body, the Association of School and College Leaders, said the assumption that governing bodies should be smaller is the wrong place to start.

"Before considering the size of governing bodies, the group needs to look at their role and, in particular, the onerous range of responsibilities and tasks given to them by successive governments."

Phil Revell, chief executive of the National Governors' Association, said he recognised that some governing bodies struggled with their role and that others could be reduced in size without any loss of effectiveness.

But he said there was no recent research that supported the view that smaller governing bodies were more effective.

"Neither is there any recent research to show that governing bodies are failing in their task.

"We are concerned about the apparent direction of government policy in this area and about the evidence base that ministers are using for policy formation," he added.

School governors to face review
27 Mar 08 |  Education

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