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‘A disgrace’: Ministers axe Inspiring Governance scheme

Government has pulled the plug on a governor recruitment scheme – despite record-high vacancies – in a move branded “nothing short of a disgrace”.

The National Governance Association said ditching the last remaining government-funded governance scheme means boards are now “left entirely to their own devices, with past support for governance recruitment, development, and training now all removed”.

Inspiring Governance has helped recruit 8,000 school governors and trustees since it launched with Department for Education funding back in 2016.

Despite this, an NGA survey in 2022 found two-thirds of school or trust governing boards had at least one vacancy as the number of empty posts hit a six-year high.

But government will end funding for Inspiring Governance in September.

Emma Balchin, NGA co-chief executive, said: “The decision to abandon funding for school governance is deeply concerning and sets a troubling precedent for the future.”

In October, government also scrapped the national leaders of governance programme, which had been supporting struggling schools to improve their governance for ten years. 

A Schools Week freedom of information request last year found £1.2 million for governance development and training schemes had been cut since 2020-21. 

“Governance is pivotal in upholding standards and driving improvement within our education system,” added Balchin.

“Without adequate financial support to support sustainable recruitment of volunteers, governors, and trustees’ ability to fulfil their responsibilities effectively is jeopardised.”

Governors ‘taken for granted’

NGA has written to education secretary Gillian Keegan, urging her department to “reassess its positions and acknowledge the irreplaceable role of governance in the education sector”.

The letter adds “the fact that your government seems willing to overlook their contribution [to the governance system] is nothing short of a disgrace”.

It added “removing the final piece of DfE governance funding from September – that for the recruitment of governors – you as a Government are no longer supporting in any way this enormous band of selfless people governing our schools and trusts.

“This has never happened before during NGA’s existence. You are taking them for granted.”

England has 230,000 governance volunteers. NGA has asked government to fund a recruitment campaign to boost numbers.

Dominic Judge, deputy CEO of Education and Employers, which runs Inspiring Governance, said they welcomed confirmation the service will run until September.

But he added they are “naturally sad that there will be no further funding beyond that date. We will continue to make the case for sustained DfE support to schools and academies to help them recruit skilled governors, as they really are such a critical component of an effective functioning school system. 

“Over the next six months we will do everything we can to work with recruiters to place the many skilled, diverse volunteers already signed up with us.”

A DfE spokesperson said: “We wish to thank Inspiring Governance for introducing many skilled and diverse governors to our schools and trusts.

“We recognise the important role that thousands of governors and trustees play in raising standards in schools and improving outcomes for children and will continue to champion the brilliant work that these volunteers do to make a meaningful difference for the children in their communities.”

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