diversity in schools

The oversight offered by a school’s governing board impacts on the experiences and opportunities available to thousands of children. And yet, research from GovernorHub into The missing pool of talent on school governing boards shows boards often lack diversity; 90% of school governors surveyed were white, 52% were over the age of 55, and 79% were educated to degree or post-graduate level.

As part of our Inclusive Governance campaign, we want to put a spotlight on why diversity in schools is a cornerstone of effective governance and, more importantly, how to work towards a more diverse governing board.


Why is diversity on school governing boards so important?

The lack of diversity on school governing boards is a long-standing issue, and the conversation around it continues to grow. It took centre stage at this year’s National School Governors Awareness Day, which focused on ‘The Governance of Inclusion’, and is the driving force behind our Inclusive Governance campaign. So, let’s start by talking about why it’s so important.

Effective governance requires an understanding of the needs of different pupils and being able to relate to them. It’s not about tick boxes – it’s about having a mix of perspectives, experiences, and challenges at the decision-making table. Vinny Wagjiani, Chair of Governors at Leechpool Primary School, told us:

“Diversity in school governance is about embracing a tapestry of perspectives that enrich decision-making and ensure every voice is heard. In a governing body with diverse voices, echo chambers fade. This has guided Leechpool towards a future built on understanding and collaboration.”

Indeed, from our work in the sector, we know that diverse governing boards make for:

  • Enhanced understanding of community needs: Board members from diverse backgrounds can offer insights into the unique needs and challenges faced by different segments of the community, helping to tailor policies and initiatives to better serve pupils, staff and caregivers.
  • Improved representation: A diverse governing board ensures that the voices of all community members are heard and considered in decision-making processes, promoting inclusivity and equity in provision.
  • Diverse perspectives: Diversity of lived experience brings a variety of viewpoints, experiences, and backgrounds to the decision-making process.

While talking about the importance – and raising awareness – of diversity is important, it’s only the first step. If there’s a lack of diversity on your school’s governing board, what action can you take?


Taking steps towards diversifying your board and promoting diversity in schools

Perhaps unsurprisingly, recruitment is at the heart of how diverse – or not diverse – a school governing board is. When populated through existing networks, those with shared demographics often prevail. That’s why enlisting the services of Governors for Schools can be an effective way to access a wider pool of skilled and passionate volunteers.

During the 2023-2024 period: 37% of the school governors we supported onto boards were from ethnic minority/global majority backgrounds. 70% were also under the age of 45, bringing younger perspectives to the table. These figures reflect our efforts to reach people typically underrepresented in school governance, who may not think volunteering as a school governor is for them.

The Inclusive Governance campaign – an initiative designed to inspire and engage people with different lived experiences to get involved in governance – is at the forefront of these efforts. We also engage a wide range of volunteers through university and corporate partnerships, free introductory webinars, and our Pathway to Governance programme to secure the future of governance.


How can we support you to diversify your board?

We believe schools and trusts should ensure diversity of skills, backgrounds and experiences on their boards. Indeed, it’s one of our five aspirations for the education governance sector, and our recruitment methods support this growing need.

We have a range of services to support you to diversify your governing board, at both school and trust level.

  • If you’re looking for a school governor: register your vacancy with our Governor Recruitment Service. We’ll ask what skills or experience you’re looking for to find you the best fit. One of our dedicated partnerships managers will assist throughout.
  • If you want a more proactive approach: register your vacancy with our Enhanced Recruitment Service. We’ll offer you an optional discovery call to understand the make-up of your board and your volunteer needs. We’ll then use targeted headhunting and outreach to find the person with the right skills for your board, who also brings a fresh perspective to the table.
  • If you’re looking for a chair of governors: get in touch with our Chair Recruitment Service. This offering also includes targeted headhunting and outreach.
  • If you’re looking for an academy trustee: use our Trustee Recruitment Service. The team will work with you to fully understand your needs to find you a suitable candidate. This includes leveraging corporate, business, charity and third sector networks.


Diversity in schools – reflecting on your diversity data

Creating long-term, systemic change also means reflecting on – and reviewing – the make-up of your board periodically. Follow the Department for Education’s guidance, issued last year, that encourages school governing bodies and trust boards to publish diversity data.

To streamline this process, GovernorHub has created the option to add personal information to your profile page. Most categories reflect those used in the 2021 census – such as gender, ethnic group, religion and sexual orientation. An anonymised report is available to board admins if the minimum number of members have submitted a response. Boards can then publish the data on their website to meet the new DfE guidance. Paired with GovernorHub’s Community Insights tool, you can periodically assess whether your board is representative of the community it serves.