New guidance to assist with recruitment and induction for new governors and trustees
NGA will host the national Outstanding Governance Awards 2017 in September at the Palace of Westminster. Unsurprisingly, something we found our finalists all have in common is the importance they ascribe to working as a team – where each member of the board is contributing something positive and bringing their own experience and skills to bear on a range of strategic issues.
The school governance community is one of the largest volunteer forces in the country. Nevertheless, boards often struggle to find new skilled volunteers to join them.
In our 2016 annual survey with the TES magazine, half of the 5,000 respondent governors and trustees told us they found it difficult to recruit new blood to the board. That’s one of the reasons we decided to publish our new guidance The right people around the table, and which can be downloaded free.
The guidance is part of Inspiring Governance, a new DfE-funded governor and trustee recruitment service, and unique because those placed as a result of this service will, for the first time, have access to a range of NGA support, including a helpline, e-learning, induction guides and online guidance.
Of course, the job of building a board doesn’t stop with recruitment. All governors and trustees need induction and development opportunities to encourage them to stay and make a meaningful contribution.
Here are our five steps to getting the right people round the table:
Getting the right people around the table begins with evaluating what you’ve already got and then making a decision about who you need, now and in the future.
Think about whether everyone is used in the best way. Does the board have good debates covering the relevant issues and angles, but not so many voices that nothing gets done? And what about the committee structure - are the same people on every committee? They shouldn’t be.
Reviewing your composition and practice helps to establish what is or isn’t working. The APPG 20 Questions and NGA’s skills audit can assist you with this process.
Don’t forget about exit interviews. When people move on, ask them to reflect on their own work and the work of the governing board. This is useful intelligence.
Our guide features tips for getting more participation from under-represented groups. Diverse and inclusive boards can access a wider pool of talent and skills, they set an example about inclusion from the top down, and demonstrate a commitment to their own diversity policy.
There are various places you can advertise but www.inspiringgovernance.org is the free, national online recruitment service, connecting recruiting boards to volunteers interested in becoming governors and trustees. Inspiring Governance allows you to register your vacancies, view details of local volunteers and invite candidates for interview. We walk you through this and through setting up a panel to coordinate the recruitment process.
Finding governors and trustees to join the board is one thing, appointing them is another. Different schools and colleges have different methods of appointing so you need to know who has the final say at your school or group of schools.
Being a governor or trustee is a position of significant responsibility and trust. Before recommending a candidate to the full governing board for approval, the candidate should be interviewed to make sure they are suitable. Interviewing is a really important step for you and the volunteer to discuss the role, responsibilities and time commitment. There’s also a requirement for a DBS check, and you’ll want to alert candidates to this in advance. Also, be sure to take up references before making the recommendation.
Governors and trustees should not serve on more than two boards at the same time. This is to prevent individuals having undue influence over a number of schools and was one of the many outcomes from the ‘Trojan horse’ inquiry.
The value of support and training for your newly appointed governors or trustees should not be underestimated. New recruits often feel daunted by the level of information they are suddenly presented with. A tailored induction plan should follow any appointment, and which could include a mentor system with other governors and trustees.
The clerk to the governing board is also an invaluable source of help and support, and their responsibilities should be made clear so that new governors and trustees feel comfortable asking them for information and advice.
Everyone on the board should be committed to personal development, essential to ensure a self-improving board, and which should be made clear at recruitment stage that this is an expectation. Investment in this area can make the difference between a functioning board and a great board.
Succession planning is part of a healthy cycle in board development – as the school or trust changes, so will the needs of the board. NGA recommends that governors and trustees serve no more than two terms of office on any one board; that’s eight years and plenty of time to make a difference. Chairs should be limited to six years in post as chair on the same board, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
One aspect of succession planning is to enable the transfer of knowledge and experience from those handing over the reins. This is also the stage to reflect on the work of the board by learning from feedback offered through exit interviews.