Schools

School governing boards becoming less diverse, research suggests

Just 6 per cent of governors were black, Asian or minority ethnic, despite a drive to make boards more diverse

Just 6 per cent of governors were black, Asian or minority ethnic, despite a drive to make boards more diverse

16 Sep 2022, 9:48

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Emma Knights, the CEO of the National Governance Association, said a survey of school governors and trustees made for "sobering" reading

School governing boards have become less diverse, despite government calls for action, suggests a “sobering” new report.

Just 6 per cent of school governors and trustees who responded to the National Governance Association’s (NGA) annual survey were black, Asian or minority ethnic.

The number aged under 40 was also the lowest on record, halving over the past five years to 6 per cent.

The survey of 4,000 governance volunteers, published today, suggests boards are getting less representative. In 2021, 93 per cent of respondents said they were white, and 9 per cent under 40.

Last November, then education secretary Nadhim Zahawi urged schools to re-evaluate how they advertised vacancies so governing boards reflected the “diversity and richness” of school communities.

The NGA has also previously warned that “closed recruitment practices” and “lack of visibility” were barriers to more diverse candidates.

Emma Knights, the association’s chief executive, said: “These findings make for sobering reading: schools need more good people and we need to get the message out far and wide to engage the thousands we need to fill governance roles.”

The findings could offer a small glimmer of hope, however. Nearly a quarter of boards reported recruiting members from under-represented groups, up from 16 per cent last year.

But nearly two-thirds of respondents agreed trustee recruitment was difficult, up eight percentage points from 2019.

Governance expert Raj Unsworth said the report suggested a looming crisis in school and trust governance.

The NGA estimates schools have 20,000 governor vacancies: 38 per cent of respondents now report their school or trust board has two or more vacancies.

However the Department for Education (DfE) has failed to revive a programme to recruit business leaders to academy boards.

The Academy Ambassadors Programme ended in March under former provider New Schools Network (NSN), which has since announced its closure.

The DfE said this week it is “reviewing its options on how best to ensure strong governance on academy trust boards”.

Set up in 2013, it has placed more than 2,000 trustees.

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