The report of the largest survey ever undertaken on the state of school governance by the University of Bath and the National Governors’ Association was published and presented to government on 15th May 2014.

Based on a survey of over 7,500 school governors across England it estimates that the value of governors’ contribution to the education system at over £1bn. Governors of all types of schools took part, including academy governors.

Findings from The State of School Governing in England 2014 highlight the increased importance of school governors under the new education system and both the challenges of governing and of recruiting volunteers. 

Nick Chambers, Director of the Education and Employer Taskforce has welcomed the report, saying: “As a new era in the history of school governance begins, the report celebrates the work of hundreds of thousands of individuals who volunteer their time, free of charge, to provide leadership and accountability within our schools.”

Generally governance practice is improving with more challenge of headteachers by governors, and a great commitment to training and development.  The report also recommends that, although most governors are in paid employment and are professionals or managers, more should be done to organise governors on work-friendly lines, so that people in paid employment can participate easily.

The report reveals that schools in disadvantaged settings or with low Ofsted grades are particularly struggling to recruit skilled people to take on the governor role – precisely where they are needed most.  It is also reported that 96 per cent of respondents are white.

Lead Author, Professor Chris James of the University of Bath, said: “The recruitment of governors would be helped by greater recognition and valuing the contribution that school governors make. Central government has a role here in acknowledging and appreciating the responsibility governors undertake on its behalf.

“Employers have a role too in making it easier for their employees to be involved. What is very clear from our research is that recruiting governors can be very difficult and we need more volunteers with the right qualities.”

This report coincides with the launch of a new Alliance between the Department for Education, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the Education and Employers Taskforce, the National Governors’ Association, NCOGs, SGOSS and the Confederation of British Industry. At the launch of the alliance, the Education Secretary, Michael Gove, will say: “We recognise the valuable contribution that governors make to our schools and colleges, and now their role is more vital than ever. The future of our school system is in their hands as they hold school and college leaders to account for improving performance and scrutinising finances. There has never been a more important time to be a governor.”

To download the State of School Governing in England 2014, click here.