We introduced remote governance last year to tackle the diversity and skill shortages throughout the sector. Remote governance allows for at least a minority of board members to attend meetings remotely. There’s no expectation that they will visit the school regularly, if ever.
If a school is struggling to locate someone with a certain skill set, or even looking to increase the diversity of their board, then remote governance can be an excellent alternative to appointing a governor locally. With over 150 registered remote governor vacancies, governors can offer their skills to a school remotely using the technology we have become familiar with working at home throughout the pandemic.
While there is no obligation for a remote governor to visit school (and not all governors will be able to), a popular option that has emerged in 2021 is a hybrid role in which those that can, visit school once or twice a year. Where remote governors have done this, they have developed a greater connection with their governing board and the school they support.
In 2021 we spoke to some volunteers who had been experiencing life as a remote governor and asked for their opinion. If you haven’t read this case study please do so here.
12 months on, we have re-visited some of the same volunteers to understand how they are progressing.
Leo Sutton, a consultant with Deloitte in London, is a governor with St. Leonards Academy and The Hastings Academy. The schools are part of the University of Brighton Academies Trust in Hastings – and their boards have been operating remotely for 2021 and the start of 2022. This is how Leo has been finding it:
Being a remote governor has meant that disruption from COVID has been reduced as I have been able to continue to attend meetings even as schools have not welcomed visitors. It also meant that I was able to continue to have productive meetings with my counterparts in the schools and meet my commitments as a governor, even as work became especially busy ahead of Christmas. As we have moved to hybrid meetings now that the pandemic allows some people to meet in person, the lack of technology has become more of an issue. Even basics like high quality headsets or a conference call speakers are missing in schools. As we come out of the pandemic, everyone is re-evaluating what they want in terms of being remote/in-person. In this respect it has been easier to be part of a general shift to hybrid ways of working than striking out alone.
Looking forward to 2022 and the future of remote governance, Leo said:
I am hoping that as we come out of the pandemic, I can make visits to the school as a hybrid governor. I think the key benefits here are relationship building, and getting a ‘feel’ for the school environment, both of which I have struggled to do in a totally remote setting. I would absolutely recommend being a remote governor to anyone considering it. I have found that at the moment everyone is very receptive to discussions about whether it is better to meet remotely or in person, and it means that the meetings and requirements are significantly easier to fit around work/home commitments.
Sam Martin works for Lloyds Banking Group, in both London and Edinburgh, he is a governor for Outwood Academy Ormesby and Outwood Academy Normanby in his hometown of Middlesbrough. He has also taken on the link governor roles for both Careers & Employability and also Mental Health & Wellbeing. Sam said:
Being a remote governor has helped me to flexibly support school leaders at a time to suit everyone. Remote governance has allowed us all to become more agile and responsive instead of being constrained to a limited number of face to face touchpoints. The relationships are 100% deeper and I’m able to add more value as a result.
He is glad that his school was able to be inclusive of remote governance and commented:
The school utilises Google Meets and adjusts the meeting room up so I can dial in, appearing on the whiteboard. They have become accustomed to the method very quickly. A few months within the main pandemic period, we’re still testing and learning but I have been impressed by the experimentation mind set from the school.
Considering the benefits of remote governance, he added:
My role is hybrid and I’m due to return to the school this year, I see it as a benefit provided it is planned and intentional. I value the benefits of remote governance as it improves the value of face to face meetings, allowing us to focus on the type of interactions unsuitable for virtual methods. I would absolutely recommend being a remote governor not just to potential governors but to schools across the UK.
12 months on from our initial launch many schools are happily adapting to remote governance, either adding a full time remote governor to their board or developing hybrid roles. Schools and volunteers from across the country are realising the benefits of taking a blended approach to the composition of their board. They’re making room for remote governors, believing that doing so will make a real impact on the efficacy of the board as a whole. The future is bright for remote governance and we’re pleased that they have been able to impact their schools so positively.
You can help young people to succeed by volunteering as a governor. We’ll support you so you’re equipped to make a difference.