Sixty vacancies and six applications - School governor charity’s warning over Norfolk recruitment crisis

PUBLISHED: 10:19 06 May 2018 | UPDATED: 13:16 06 May 2018

There is a lack of school governors in Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

There is a lack of school governors in Norfolk. Picture: Ian Burt

An education charity for school governors has warned of a recruitment crisis in Norfolk - after just six volunteers applied last year.

Louise Cooper, chief executive of Governors for Schools. Picture: Governors for SchoolsLouise Cooper, chief executive of Governors for Schools. Picture: Governors for Schools

Governors for Schools says there are 60 school governor vacancies registered in Norfolk, but a lack of volunteers willing to come forward.

Last year, just six volunteers applied through the charity - all of which were referred onto schools - and it is now hoping to raise awareness of both the shortage and the benefits the role can offer.

Louise Cooper, chief executive of the charity, said it had been connecting schools will skilled volunteers for 19 years.

“While we have great success in urban areas such as London and the south east, Birmingham and Manchester, it is much harder to find potential candidates in more rural areas such as Norfolk.

“We match on the basis of skills and location. So a volunteer could have fantastic finance skills, but if the school that needs them is over an hour’s drive each way, that can be a challenge for the volunteer to dedicate enough time to the school.”

She said, nationally, it was difficult to attract people because there is “low awareness” around the governor role.

“Unless you are parent with children at school, or in the education profession already, you are unlikely to know that these positions exist,” she said.

“We want to broadcast this story because the benefits to both the school and volunteer are huge. This is a genuine win-win situation. For example if a volunteer brings their expertise in human resources, the school obtains expert advice and support on recruitment and retention of teachers, or handling disciplinary situations, as well as more general support and challenge from a professional.”

In return, she said, the volunteer gains experience of being on a board, setting strategy, influencing and negotiation, as well as the “satisfaction of knowing they are contributing to young people’s futures and the local community”.

Becoming a governor is a significant role - they provide leadership and accountability, appointing the head and deputy, overseeing finances, direction and vision for the school.

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Case study

David Riddle has been a governor at Alderman Peel High School, in Wells, since May 2016.

Having moved to Norfolk from north London earlier in the year, he said, despite not having a professional background in education, that he wanted to give something back and put skills in leadership and governance to good use.

He said the time commitments weren’t too onerous, with meetings held roughly twice every half term and visits to the school every so often.

“It’s challenging coming to terms with the jargon,” he said, “as education has its own language.”

But Mr Riddle, who lives in Fakenham, said, overall, it was a role he would recommend.

“We are responsible for the future of 450 students,” he said. “The school is about educating them, building aspirations, widening their horizons and giving them the best possible start to take their lives forward. It’s great to be a part of it.”

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