Calls for greater diversity among school governors

Calls for greater diversity among school governors

​"When I was at school, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do when I grew up," says Theresa Esan.

​"I didn't have many role models that inspired me.

​"There were big international figures like Nelson Mandela and Oprah, but none that I could relate to locally."

​It was because of a lack of local black role models when she was a child that Theresa decided to become a governor at a sixth form college in the London borough of Havering.

​Teresa, who has been a governor for nine months, is now helping to front a campaign by the charity Governors for Schools aimed at encouraging greater diversity on school governing boards across England.

​The charity works to match skilled and committed volunteers with schools looking for governors.

Why is the charity encouraging diversity?

​In a survey of 5,300 governors, conducted by the National Governance Association and the Times Educational Supplement in 2017, 94% of respondents gave their ethnicity as white.

​The survey noted that this is "considerably narrower than the averages shown in the census (86% white) and the backgrounds of pupils attending state-funded schools (75% white)".

​Louise Cooper, CEO of Governors for Schools, said: "Breaking down stereotypes and challenging preconceptions of what people think school governors are, is vital in encouraging diversity on governing boards.

​"Different viewpoints and skills bring the challenge governing boards need, which in turn provides more rigorous debate in making difficult decisions and ensuring effective governance."

What does Theresa say?

​For Theresa, it's crucial that children see people like them in positions of influence.

​"Growing up in Hampshire there was nobody like me that I could look up to, apart from my mother, " she says.

​"Children and young adults need to be inspired early on in their lives

​"It's so important that they see people of their own gender and ethnicity and background in senior roles - it helps them to aspire and dream and know things are possible."

​Her view is backed up by Cecilia from Haringey in London.

​"I wanted to give back to my former local community. I grew up in Haringey and wanted to contribute to a school that's making great progress and doing amazing things for children in the borough.

​"Most people think I'm quite young to be a governor. But I've been able to provide a perspective as a young black woman.

​"I've made other governors aware of the specific challenges young people in Haringey face, in terms of their relationships not just with education, but within the local community too."

​Theresa, who has been awarded an MBE for services to further education, says she has learnt a lot from her time as a school governor.

​"One of the best parts of being a governor is meeting lots of talented and ambitious young people. You can learn so much by talking to them."

How many vacancies are there?

​There are approximately a quarter of a million people volunteering as governors in schools in England.

​Governors for Schools currently has 2,721 vacancies across England, and 2,535 of those are outside London.

​The charity says the south-east tends to have the most vacancies as it is more densely populated than other areas, and has a high volume of schools.

What does being a governor involve?

​Anyone aged over 18 can be a governor and you do not have to be a parent. Governors have three main responsibilities:

  • overseeing the financial performance of the school and making sure the money is well spent
  • holding the head teacher to account for the educational performance of the school and its pupils
  • ensuring the school has a clear vision, ethos and direction.
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