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Suffolk suffering school governor crisis as hundreds of vacancies revealed

PUBLISHED: 14:33 06 May 2018 | UPDATED: 14:34 06 May 2018

Governors help make sure school standards are up to scratch. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

Governors help make sure school standards are up to scratch. Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

Hongqi Zhang

A call for more people to become governors for their local schools has been issued, as new figures reveal hundreds of vacancies.

Suffolk county councillor Gordon Jones said it was a rewarding role. Picture: JAMES FLETCHERSuffolk county councillor Gordon Jones said it was a rewarding role. Picture: JAMES FLETCHER

Data published by Suffolk County Council ahead of its governor appointments committee this week has revealed that there are 378 vacancies in the county’s 149 local authority maintained schools – more than 100 of which are parent roles and more than 150 for co-option. Just 14 of those schools have full governor boards.

Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for education, said: “I can speak from experience as a governor myself – the role is very rewarding and it’s great to be able to be part of a team that can influence children’s lives for the better.

“The Govern Suffolk campaign, which the county council launched last year, has filled a number of vacant positions.”

Governing boards are made up of a variety of people including the headteacher, staff members, parents and others in the community who have skills or experience in industries such as law, finance and human resources.

Figures on school governor vacancies in Suffolk. Picture: INFOGRAM/ARCHANTFigures on school governor vacancies in Suffolk. Picture: INFOGRAM/ARCHANT

They hold the headteacher and leadership team to account and ensure the smooth running of the school, as well as monitoring staff appointments and finances.

Governors for Schools, an independent charity that helps recruit and support governors, said it had seen rural schools affected more and its data showed there were just three volunteers in the whole of Suffolk who applied for a governor position through them.

Louise Cooper, the charity’s chief executive and a school governor, said: “There isn’t a great amount of public awareness about the huge benefits of becoming a governor. I feel I am invested in seeing people doing better, and helping my local community.”

Despite the large number of vacancies, academies are struggling much less. Schools for Governors data suggests there are just 10 academy governor vacancies across seven schools in Suffolk of those on its database.

Jack Abbott. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCILJack Abbott. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL

The ability of academy trusts to encourage school staff to become governors at other schools within the trust has helped, as well as utilising the skills sets of those already within the trust itself are understood to help.

Education bosses at the county council are due to meet this week to discuss the issue and measures which can help improve take up.

Jack Abbott, Labour education spokesman at the county council, said that while it was a rewarding role it was necessary to “think how we can encourage people of a variety of backgrounds”.

He added: “We need to make sure we deliver the necessary support.”

The Department for Education has pledged £1.75million each year nationally up to March 2020 to help governing boards recruit the right people and a further £1.6m per year on a governance development programme.

Anyone interested in finding out more about becoming a governor can contact Suffolk County Council or the Governors for Schools website.

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