Recruiting and retaining governors
A strong governing body is vital for setting the school's vision, holding leaders accountable, and using financial resources effectively. A governing board that reflects the wider community makes a powerful statement about the school's ethos and has a positive impact on its outcomes.
Recruiting from a wide and diverse pool maximises the skills, experiences and insights needed to operate a thriving inner city school. Governors must be recruited, trained and supported with creativity and consideration to succeed in their roles.
This page has advice on understanding and responding to the challenges of recruiting the right people for our schools. It emphasises the power of diversity, provides tips and links to more advice and ideas about retention.
Responding to the challenge
School leaders know that being a school governor is a demanding but rewarding role. It is a way to give back to the community and make a difference in the lives of children, but recruiting volunteers is challenging. That’s why Tower Hamlets Governors Services puts so much emphasis on supporting schools to recruit effectively.
We know the role can be time-consuming and demanding. People may worry they do not have the time to commit to it. So, it’s important that school leaders and their governing bodies are flexible in their operation to increase the number of people who would consider becoming a governor of your school.
Potential recruits think they don’t have the skills or experience to be a governor. Be clear that there is no need to have deep knowledge of education and that having the perspectives of people unfamiliar with the system brings valuable new ideas to the table.
Businesses aren’t aware of the skills and experience volunteers can develop and bring back to their work. Schools that explicitly identify the strategic planning, leadership and decision-making skills that governors can develop are more able to effectively target the people they need.
The power of diversity
Schools with governors who reflect the diversity of the local community experience positive impacts on their outcomes. But governing bodies often lack this diversity. That’s why Tower Hamlets Governors Services puts emphasis on supporting schools to achieve the aim of having a more representative board.
Research tells us most governors are white and that, three quarters are 40 to 70 years old. More are over 80 than under 30. The idea that governors are older, white and from professional backgrounds is a major barrier to entry for potential school governors.
Schools that actively recruit governors of a wider age, gender, religion and ethnicity range are more effective in raising standards. Diversity has power and it may not be as hard as you think to recruit a more diverse board.
Tower Hamlets Governors Services has produced The Power of Diversity in Governance - Getting governor recruitment and retention right - a guide for schools. It’s a toolkit with practical advice, real-life case studies and advice on best practice.
- Ten tips to help you get diverse recruitment right
- Six tips for improving retention
- Resources, references and links to useful websites
You can also download our Inclusive Recruitment of School Governors and Staff handbook to help you better understand your role as a recruiter and how to overcome unconscious bias.
Watch these films that feature in the guide
‘The Power of diverse governance’ shows local governors, school leaders and education support staff from Black, Asian and Multi Ethnic backgrounds giving their views on the benefits of recruiting from across the community.
In ‘Recruitment tips’ they give some practical ideas that will support schools to recruit from the widest possible pool.
There are other online resources that can help you recruit new governors. They advise:
- Conducting skills audits - identify any gaps in your board that need to be filled
- Starting early and having a clear campaign - target your advertising and send out engaging messages
- Reach out to a wide range of people - people from all walks of life, including parents, business and community leaders
- Raise the profile and celebrate the work of governors - make sure people who want to make a difference that being a governor is a powerful way to achieve that aim
- Host events and attend local networks - give people the chance to learn more about the role and meet current governors
- Tailor and target the content of advertising and the channels you use at your target audience - include clear information about the role and stress the benefits of being a school governor.
- Provide clear expectations - let potential governors know what is expected of them in their role.
- Make it easy for people to apply - offer a phone number as well as an email address, maybe include a QR code to link people to a web page.
- Use online services that match volunteers to schools to widen your net.
For more support
Inspiring Governance is a free, online service that connects schools and trusts in England with skilled volunteers in your area who are interested in becoming a school governor.
Governors for Schools finds, places and supports skilled volunteers as governors and trustees on school and academy boards.
National Governors Association provide guidance and resources to help governing boards get the right people around the table.
GovernorHub portal has lots of articles on recruiting and retaining governors. Find out more about the GovernorHub.
Tips from the Governor Services team
We think that there are four crucial things you must do when recruiting new governors in Tower Hamlets:
- Be creative in your recruitment - don't rely on newspaper ads and flyers, use social media and the internet
- Create a welcoming environment - make sure new governors feel welcome and supported.
- Address imposter syndrome - help potential governors see that they have what it takes to be successful.
- Making governance accessible to people who are unfamiliar with the education environment – avoid jargon and acronyms in everything you write and say
Use our Jargon Buster for school governors to help recruit, develop and retain governors.
Keeping hold of new governors
Once you have got them, it is important to support new recruits from the start. There is a steep learning curve for new governors and they need to be provided with as much information as possible. This will help them feel confident in their role and contribute effectively.
All the national sites above offer advice and support around retention.
The guidance and training for governors pages offers practical support for next and existing governors that will help them settle and stay in your school.