Governor shortage is a ‘threat to the stability’ of school leadership

Pam Mills

SCHOOLS are being compromised by a countywide shortage of governors, a West Kent education charityhas warned.

Data from SGOSS (School Governor’s One Stop Shop) has revealed that Tonbridge and Malling borough schools have a combined number of vacancies of 103 while Tunbridge
Wells schools have 65.

Governors hold the main responsibility for finance in schools, appointing the head teacher and working with senior leadership teams to bring pupil education to standard.

Louise Cooper, chief executive of SGOSS, said West Kent had a ‘particular shortage’ of governors which could create a worrying skills deficit within the bodies.

“Governor boards need to have a diverse set of skills so they can be effective, for example if you are facing an HR or financial situation and you don’t have people with those skills that is a problem.”

Ms Cooper said several factors prevent people from becoming governors, including misunderstandings.

“If you ask a man or woman on the street,” she continued, “they might say there is an age you need to be or they need to have a connection to the school, but you don’t.

“You would bring in additional expertise.”

She added: “We looked at the stats and Kent was one of the highest concentrations
of schools with a shortage of governors.”

David Bower, chairman of governors at Weald of Kent, a Tonbridge grammar school with an annexe in Sevenoaks, is aware of problems but said his board was ‘lucky,’ to have no current vacancies. “People are so busy with their lives, especially in West Kent where a lot of parents are commuting to jobs in London, so volunteer work is not a priority.

“There is a particular problem in the primary sector as parents may also be taking care of younger children.”

The experienced governor, who has been on boards since 2002, said finding people with relevant skills from all areas is ‘not going to be easy,’ but people should not be put off applying.

“Being a governor is a very rewarding thing to do,” he added.

Sean McQuillan, head teacher of St Gregory’s Catholic School in Reynolds Lane, Tunbridge Wells, said: “We have recently had vacancies but I’m pleased we’ve filled them.

“Governors play a vital role in overseeing the school, overseeing curriculum and finances. They bring key skills to help run the school.”

What does it mean to be a governor?

  • Governors play an important role in setting the strategic direction of a school and monitoring progress on all aspects of school life, particularly educational outcomes and finances.
  • They gather as a board for meetings, typically every term. There are usually subcommittees which also meet once a term, potentially more often depending on necessity.
  • Governing bodies differ in size but often have around 12 members, made up of parent governors, staff governors and community or co-opted governors.
  • Almost anyone over 18 can apply to become a governor but most effective boards will have members from different walks of life with relevant and complementary skills.
  • It is an unpaid role requiring several hours a week.
  • A key duty of the board is to appoint the school’s head teacher and their relationship is critical to the success of the school. The role of the head teacher isto work with the governing body on the strategic development of the school and to take full responsibility for the operational enactment of the strategy.
  • There are a number of ways of finding schools that have vacancies: You can contact your local school to ask if they need a new governor, or you can contact SGOSS – a national charity that matches schools with skilled governor volunteers. Find out more by visiting:

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