A new study is being set up to look at the role of teachers, lecturers and professors as school, college or university governors, what more can be done to enhance their governance positions and to encourage them to volunteer.
Abdulla Sodiq, a Lecturer in Education Studies at Birmingham City University, is leading the year-long research project from December 2021 through to November 2022, which will focus on three education establishments in Birmingham – a university, a further education college, and a secondary school. The project is being funded by the British Educational Leadership, Management and Administration Society (BELMAS).
The study aims to provide an up-to-date snapshot of the professional status of those who volunteer as educational governors, to uncover what motivates those teachers and lecturers who also work as governors, and what barriers are preventing those who don’t from having a greater say in the running of schools, colleges and universities.
Governors at educational establishments are Britain’s biggest volunteer group, with over a quarter of a million alone in schools across the country, over 8,000 in colleges in England and 3,300 in Higher Education Institutions (HEIs). They help shape the strategy for the institutions they govern, hold leadership to account for educational performance, and oversee finances.
Governors come from different personal and professional backgrounds, and while experience in an education setting is not a statutory requirement, a keen interest in teaching and learning is expected – which is why researchers at Birmingham City University want to find out more about the role of teachers and lecturers in educational governance.
Research lead Abdulla Sodiq said:
Abdulla and his team will gather information through surveys of the governing bodies of each of the three institutions, and one-to-one interviews with those teachers and lecturers who also volunteer as governors. The findings will also be discussed in professional and academic workshops and disseminated through Birmingham City University’s research blog spaces.
As well as collecting information about the status of professional educators in governance, the project will also provide an update on the level of diversity within the sector – an area currently being explored by the National Governance Association, which recently reported that just 5% of governors in state schools in England are from minority ethnic backgrounds.
The picture is similar across the higher and further education sectors. Just over 10% of governors of HEIs are of minority ethnic backgrounds while 32% of further education college boards did not have a single Asian member, and 51% did not have one member of Black ethnicity amongst the group.
“It’s important that governors of schools, colleges and universities reflect the communities that they serve and the country as a whole so our research will also look at how different demographics are represented within the sector.
“But our principal focus will be on professional educators, how they perceive the role of governors and what either motivates or holds them back from getting more closely involved in governance.”
Research findings will be shared with project funders BELMAS as well as the National Governance Association, the Association of Colleges, professional associations and the membership body Advanced HE to inform policy and practice decisions around the recruitment, retention and representation of educational governors.