Diversity stats ‘not enough’ to boost school board representation

New government guidance 'encourages' schools to collect and publish governor and trustee diversity data

New government guidance 'encourages' schools to collect and publish governor and trustee diversity data

17 Apr 2023, 14:33

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Governing boards have been told to collate and publish their own diversity data – but campaigners warn the move is not enough to address “alarming” representation numbers.

The Department for Education has today published guidance encouraging heads of academies, colleges and maintained schools to collect the information on its trustees.

Officials stressed the figures “must be [made] widely accessible”, as they aim to make boards “increasingly reflective of the communities they serve”.

However, bosses of the National Governance Association doubt “publishing data is going to do much” to convince black, Asian or minority ethnic people to volunteer.

‘Recruitment drive could improve representation’

In the newly released guidance, the government stated: “Diversity is important and we want governing boards to be increasingly reflective of the communities they serve.”

“We encourage academy trust boards to collect and publish diversity data about the board and any local committees. Information should be widely accessible to members of the school community and the public.

“Board members can opt out of sharing their information, including protected characteristics, at any given time, including after publication.”

It added “there is no prescriptive way to collect diversity data from volunteers”, as this “needs to be done on a voluntary basis”.

The government suggested “schools may prefer to adopt a similar approach to how they collate the diversity data of pupils”.

But Sam Henson, the NGA director of policy and information, said: “I don’t think it’s enough on its own.

“They need to be doing way more to increase the awareness of what governing bodies do and why people should get involved as it’s largely unseen now – just tweaking the guidance doesn’t do that. This could be done through a recruitment drive led by the DfE.”

The NGA revealed in September just 6 per cent of school governors and trustees who responded to its annual survey were black, Asian or minority ethnic.

The study of 4,000 governance volunteers also showed the number aged under 40 was also the lowest on record, halving over the past five years to 6 per cent.

The findings suggest boards have become less representative in recent years. Twelve months before the most recent survey, 93 per cent of respondents were white, while just under a tenth were under 40.

‘Figures paint an alarming picture’

Henson said the diversity figures underline “there just isn’t enough movement on increasing the overall percentage of black, Asian and minority ethnic trustees”.

“The figures don’t really reflect the communities that governing boards serve – the truth is they paint an alarming picture,” he continued.

“I’m not convinced boards publishing data on this is going to do much, but anything to get the discussion focused on this is a positive.”

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