Governor skills matter

This is a short blogpost written in response to a Twitter discussion. 

The discussion started with the importance of ensuring diversity on boards. Modern Governor then asked

This then led the discussion to stakeholder vs skills model and I promised to blog as 140 characters can be a bit limiting if you’ve got a lot to say. 

My problems with the stakeholder model are 

  • The board can make it known the skills it is short on but ultimately the board will get the governor who is elected.
  • If the elected governor does not work in the best interests of the school and board, there’s nothing the board can do to replace the elected governor. Four years is a long time to carry an ineffective governor! *
  • People require special skills to be able to leave the stakeholder hat outside the boardroom. I’m not convinced that everyone has this skill. 

So, if you drill down my problem with the stakeholder model isn’t to do with the stakeholder nature. My problem is that, as it presently stands, there’s not much boards can do to ensure the stakeholder governor is one who brings the skills the board needs and boards are unable to do much if they have an ineffective stakeholder governor. 

People say that removing the stakeholder category will remove local accountability and reduce parental say. I have no problems with elected governors (I started my governor career as one!). If I have to have elected stakeholders I would modify the present model so

  • The board is allowed to specify if there are any skills it requires when asking for parents to stand as parent governors. If the board gets no one to do so, then it can revert to the present system. This way, hopefully, the board will get a parent governor who brings the skills the board needs. It may even make it less of a popularity contest!
  • The elected governors are treated the same way as appointed ones. In other words they can be removed from the board in the same way as appointed ones are. 

These are controversial suggestions but I think we do need to concentrate more on  skills now. And anyway I’m an appointed governor but as I’m investing so much of my time into my board, I have a huge stake which makes me a stakeholder too! 
* The board can set a term of office shorter than 4 years. 


5 thoughts on “Governor skills matter

  1. Nick Johnson

    I think we do need some kind of stakeholder input as there is a real danger that the governance can just get too impersonal. As the name suggest, we always need people with a stake in the school.

    But agree that currently, especially with parent governors, you still end up with who you get and a lot of parent governor elections are popularity contests. I think pre-election ‘chats’ with the potential candidates should be made mandatory to make the commitment and competences needed very clear.

    One thing to remember though is that the willingness to learn is just as important in some cases than having a specific skill. If it is a ‘hard skill’ like IT then OK very difficult to learn. But a person that is willing to learn new things may be in the long run more effective than a person who can do one thing well (IT, accountancy, marketing) but doesn’t do a great deal else.

  2. Mark Bennet

    There are issues with every model which is proposed. There is a great danger of Governing Boards, as we must learn to call them, becoming inward looking and appointing people in their own image. In an appointment model a dominant chair can go unchallenged. The smaller board model causes potential problems, because our people are volunteers – Boards used to be able to carry a good person who had an issue at work, or a family problem to deal with, because we had surplus capacity. There is a move to increasing the private sector ethos of the public sector – but most private sector entities focus much more on revenue generation as an activity – the funding streams in the public sector are significantly more constrained and the management problems are different, and significantly more political. Most of the good governors I know began their life as elected parents – there have been some awkward characters too – but where is the recruitment stream in the new model? The fact that GBs were a bit overcapacity allowed people to try out a new role.


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