Recruiting skilled governors
Recruiting the right governors / trustees is really important for the effective oversight of your education provision. Even where resources are limited, it is important that the process is robust, to ensure candidates are attracted and a careful selection is made.
Table of contents
Deciding to recruit
It is increasingly difficult to find people willing to join organisations in a voluntary capacity and take on governance responsibilities. It is worth an initial discussion to look at the following:
- What skills, knowledge and experience are we looking for in a new member?
- Would we be willing to change the way we do things to attract new members?
- Is there a specific role that we need on our Governing Body?
- What legal checks need to be carried out for the Governors recruited?
The Board needs to think about a timeline and any resources that are required. Many governing bodies appoint a sub-group to conduct the process on behalf of the rest of the Board. This group may need access to the wider resources of the organisation such as the website, IT, rooms, administrative support, HR support. Members of the recruitment group need to plan how they will review and select the candidates once applications are received.
Who are you looking for?
The governing body should consider what skills or particular experience is required in a new recruit. If, for example, someone has just left with finance skills and this skillset need replacing, then it might be obvious what is needed. Alternatively, governors need to consider their overall skillset to find any deficits as a governing body. In addition, governors should think about how to attract candidates that reflect the diversity of the student group and the wider community. Diversity in terms of age, gender, disability, sexuality and ethnic background also helps to ensure that issues are viewed from different perspectives, and brings a range of lived experience to decision making.
See the links below for example skills audits. One is from a group activity taken from a template used by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) that can help to identify what skills, knowledge and experience you already have on within your Governing Body and what, if any, you are missing.
What information do candidates need to decide whether to apply for the role?
Potential applicants need to be able to find out about the organisation and the role that they are expected to play within it. People are often attracted to the idea of getting involved in an organisation that is doing something that they feel strongly in support of, so any advertisements need to draw on your college values to motivate appropriate people to apply.
It is a good idea to provide potential governors with information about the role in just the same way as would normally be provided to potential staff applicants. A role descriptor (Appendix 2) and details of expectations (time, attendance at meetings, expenses etc.) are helpful to provide.
n.b. Charity Trustees and Company Directors have other specific legal responsibilities. This document focuses on the requirements of educational governance. Other specific websites can assist with other aspects of the role.
If the role requires specific skills then consider targeting your advertisement at organisations where those skills exist. So, for instance, if you need financial skills you may benefit from sending a letter to local accountancy firms.
Use all available contacts and networks to let people know that you are recruiting, including your existing trustees / governors and staff.
Use social media to advertise roles and make use of any digital networks that might promote the roles, for example:
- the local Chamber of Commerce
- the local branch of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
- Parish Councils.
Potential applicants may want an informal discussion, so include a contact number where possible. If there are any specific criteria that will rule people out or checks that need to be made before appointment (e.g. DBS checks), ensure these appear on the documentation to save wasted applications.
Natspec operates a governor recruitment service for colleges looking for governors and individuals who are interested in becoming governors.
Selection & Appointment
You should already have planned a date for when current governors will meet the applicants and assess their suitability. Ensure that your current governors have the relevant resources and information at their disposal. It might be helpful to brief them beforehand about any legal requirements or key areas for discussion. Ensure that applicants are aware of their potential responsibilities and commitments.
Once the selection process is complete and the selectors are happy to confirm suitability, the Chair of the panel needs to relay this to the candidate and then liaise with HR / Clerk to begin any pre-appointment checks.
In order for a new governor to feel part of the organisation, it is important that they are given a full and thorough induction. This involves any required training such as safeguarding, a tour of the provision and being welcomed at the first meeting. If there are Governing Body meetings before all checks and processes of appointment are complete, invite the new governor to attend in an observer capacity.
It is good practice to have a governor or trustee handbook containing useful information about the role, meeting dates, terms of reference, strategy and access to key documents such as the most recent Self-Assessment Report (SAR) etc. Also ensure they are given access to the right IT and equipment needed for the role, such as an email address and Teams / Zoom account. You may also want to issue a governor ID card, so that they can be easily identifiable during any future visits and when representing the college.
The Education & Training Foundation (ETF) have a range of online Leadership & Governance materials and training that may also form part of an effective induction process.