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Suffolk: Shortage of school governors as one in 10 posts are vacant

09:11 10 January 2014

One in 10 school governor positions vacant

One in 10 school governor positions vacant

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One in 10 school governor posts in Suffolk are lying vacant, according to a group which recruits them.

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Governors for Schools (SGOSS) said a tenth of the estimated 4400 school governors’ positions in the local authority remained to be filled.

The figures chime with national statistics which show a similar shortage of school governors.

Improving school governing bodies was one of the key recommendations made by the report on Suffolk’s low educational standards by the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Suffolk County Council agreed that they needed to ensure governing bodies are “more strategic, challenging and ambitious”.

Yesterday a spokesman for the council said that governors were becoming increasingly important as schools became more independent.

However SGOSS have also said there is widespread misunderstanding about the role of school governors which could hamper recruitment.

A survey of members of the public in East Anglia showed that 58% of respondents didn’t realise school governors were responsible for appointing a head teacher, and 69% did not know they decided a school’s admissions policy.

A further 84% of survey respondents weren’t aware that school governors had to sign off a school budget and almost all of them – 96% - didn’t know that they allocated the budget for new buildings.

The charity has released an interactive video to raise awareness about being a school governor and encourage recruitment.

Participants must navigate the kinds of decisions governors face, such as whether to sell part of the school playing field in order to finance improved IT facilities.

Liz McSheehy, chief executive of SGOSS, said: “We know that a full and diverse governing body is a source of enormous strength to a school. The School Makers interactive video campaign looks to raise awareness of what the role involves and we hope it will inspire interested parties in East Anglia to apply to become a governor.

“If people feel they have skills to offer and care about making a difference in their local community, we want to hear from them.”

A spokesman for Suffolk County Council said: “As schools become increasingly independent, the role of governors is becoming more and more important. They play a leading role in managing school spending, driving up performance and holding the head teacher to account.

“Suffolk County Council advertises governing body vacancies - and gives guidance to schools on how to recruit new governors themselves. As part of the Raising the Bar programme, 50 Suffolk chairs of governors are currently taking part in a national leadership programme to improve their skills. Another 50 places have been secured for next year.

“We work closely with SGOSS to recruit new governors and will continue this work.”

The Department of Education said it too was consulting on measures to recruit more governors. The department has lifted government restrictions on marketing expenditure for SGOSS to enable them to spend more on encouraging recruitment.

A spokesman said: “School governors play an incredibly important role in setting the direction of a school, supporting and challenging the head teacher, and ensuring money is well spent.

“We are working with organisations including the CBI, the Education and Employers Taskforce and the school governor recruitment charity SGOSS to encourage more employers to support their staff to volunteer. We will consult on further measures to attract more high calibre governors shortly.”

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