Skype governors to be parachuted into struggling rural schools

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

Skype governors are to be parachuted into struggling rural schools, as the Education Secretary issues a “call to arms” to business leaders to help avert a crisis in the dwindling numbers of volunteers, The Telegraph reports.

“Flexi Governors”, recruited from top management consultancy and accountancy firms, will use Facetime or Skype to join governing body meetings at schools in remote parts of the country.

While using a video call to dial into a meeting is “pretty standard” in the business world, Louise Cooper, chief executive of Governors for Schools, said it represents “quite a culture change” for schools where it is expected that all members will attend in person.

“When you look at London, the south-east and urban areas, it is much easier to fill vacancies because of the population,” she said.

“There are schools in some parts of the country where it is hard for us to find governors, and they are struggling to find governors. We have started to think creatively about how we can connect skilled people.”

Governors for Schools, a national charity, recruits governors from top city firms – including Deutsche Bank, Allen & Overy and PwC – and places them in schools around the country.

“We recruit mid-career professionals who want to have experience on a board,” Ms Cooper said. “Governing boards would normally meet around six times a year. We want to get an agreement from the school that a governor can come in person twice a year, and the other times dial in through Skype or Facetime.”

A report last year by the National Governance Association (NGA) found that almost a third of governing boards around the country have one or two vacancies.

The poll of over 5,000 governors and trustees also found that 61% are aged 50 or over, and only four per cent are from black and minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds.

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Governors for Schools is working with Accenture and KPMG to pilot the “Flexi Governor” scheme, which, if successful, will then be rolled out more widely.

Speaking at an NGA conference today Damian Hinds will urge business people to “play their part in bringing on the next generation” by signing up to become a school governor or trustee.

He will tell delegate that he is issuing a “call to arms” adding: “I want to urge people from different backgrounds, different professions, to come forward – offer up your time, your energy, your skills, your expertise”.

Mr Hinds is to write to 30,000 business leaders and urge them to encourage their employees to sign up as school governors. James Hutchinson, the headmaster at Foxwood Academy in Nottingham, said that his governing board agreed this week to take part in the Flexi Governors pilot.

“Getting governors to run schools is difficult, there is a surplus in some parts of the country and a deficit in others, particularly in rural areas” he said.

“Using Skype and Facetime in governing board meetings is a departure from the norm, but in ten or 15 years time, it might be just as normal as face to face.”

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