Education CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by Liz McSheehy, Chief Executive, SGOSS

As we didn’t put in a written submission, and as the debate touched on a large number of topics, under the umbrella of governance, I thought it would be helpful if I wrote to you to expand on some of the detail and make some recommendations on the recruitment and placing of Governors:

I am aware I sounded like a broken record in making the case for SGOSS, but I believe that this is an extremely effective mechanism for recruiting skilled and successful governors. We have done a good job, with a model which is flexible to meet local circumstances and have consistently recruited high quality governors; 24,800 recruited since 2000. I think we have been a “best kept secret”, and where we have been used, have attracted much repeat business. Government needs to strongly encourage schools to use us to recruit school governors. We use a brokerage model to identify volunteers, match them with the needs of schools and skills of individuals and work with the local authority or schools to make the best match possible. There is a causal link between high quality business volunteers and effective governing bodies. Research by Punter and Adams from University of Hertfordshire (2007) surveyed a sample of our volunteers and found them more likely to take on additional roles, stay the term, more likely to be the chair and that involvement had a likely effect of influencing Ofsted grades. Our service needs to be expanded, and we need to make more people aware of it.

It is fairly easy to get volunteers, as we build a close working relationship with employers to target their employees. However there is a time lag on recruitment, typically taking 6 months to place a volunteer, when the system works properly. However there are log jams in the system, which would be helpful to tackle and reduce placement time. Schools should not be able to reject volunteers without good reason, we have had volunteers who have been offered and rejected by schools because people didn’t live in the schools postcode or do not have a previous connection with the school, if in any other respect they appear to offer added value to the governance of the school.

There is a key challenge to encourage schools to be open to new influences and focus on recruiting people for their skills. There is a role for Government and the COG in helping to promote this amongst schools.

Governing bodies need to be able to articulate the skills they need, and the governing bodies themselves need to be able to monitor their own performance. This is a reach for some boards, and the inclusion of governance in the Ofsted inspection framework enables the quality of governance to be included and commented on and seen as areas of strength or weakness, and this reporting could be further developed with Ofsted being able to recommend schools use us to recruit quality governors.

The SGOSS model is tried and tested, and it works for hiring governors. The services of SGOSS could be developed to find skilled volunteers to become clerks to the board of governors and indeed identify suitable people to become chairs, providing an even more bespoke recruitment role, an SGOSS plus service.

The need to focus on the skills for the governing body is very important. SGOSS volunteers are able to add value quickly because their work experience has prepared them to ask the difficult questions, analyse the data and question and challenge the Head Teacher. Transferable skills are not enough to drive school improvement, Governors need to care.

This is a wide ranging debate, which has to take into consideration many different perspectives in the mix. What appears to be missing is the evidence to look at the impact that different types of governors have on the school. Well commissioned impact research would give some strong indications of which approaches are working, and start to give a firm evidence base to the debate. It would be helpful if government were to commission this.

March 2013

Prepared 3rd July 2013