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Promised national governor recruitment campaign in limbo

The outgoing Conservative government was poised to launch a national school governor recruitment campaign before the general election was called.

Emma Knights, co-chief executive of the National Governance Association, said she hoped the new government would continue with the proposal after years of lobbying finally paid off.

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

Speaking at the Festival of Education on Thursday, Knights said her organisation had been “saying to the government, ‘you can’t just leave this to schools and trusts to have to sort themselves. You’ve got to help a bit.’”

She said the government had run high-profile recruitment campaigns for magistrates and the Territorial Army, but “the whole time I’ve been at NGA there’s been no national marketing”.

“The last government said to us that they had found some money to do that. And then they called the election early.

“We were actually having conversations about how it would work, what would be the themes, where would the volunteers go. A national, proper, out-there [campaign], not relying on little people like us in the sector.”

Ministers ‘found some money’

Knights said lobbying began in 2021 following the release of an NGA report on increasing participation.

“Ever since then, we banged on and banged on and banged on. I can’t tell you how many discussions we’ve had with the civil servants about it.”

A breakthrough came in the spring, after the NGA wrote to education secretary Gillian Keegan to brand her decision to cut funding for the Inspiring Governance recruitment scheme a “disgrace”.

At the next meeting, academies minister Baroness Barran told the NGA “that she had found some money”. The NGA was not told how much, only that it would be “enough to run a good national campaign”.

Officials were considering basing it on the DfE’s teacher vacancies platform.

Inspiring Governance, which cost £1.38 million over a two-year contract, will end in September after the Conservative government pulled the plug as part of a savings drive to fund last year’s teacher pay deal.

The scheme has recruited more than 8,500 governors since 2016 – a third of whom are from an ethnic minority background, and many for schools with “high needs”.

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