To pay or not to pay – that is the question

posted in: Purple Governance | 3

On the 15th December, 2016 Ofsted published a survey report on governance arrangements in complex and challenging circumstances. The full report can be found via this link

The report identifies the barriers faced by governors in these schools and the actions taken to strengthen their professional skills and fulfil their roles as effective, strategic school leaders.

Ofsted had the following recommendations :

Governing boards of all schools should:

  • ensure clarity of roles, responsibilities and lines of accountability for governance, particularly where multi-level governance makes accountability complex
  • publish information about governance on the school website in line with statutory requirements or the academy funding agreement to ensure transparency and clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • ensure that they have a robust review method in place to assure themselves that the board is effective
  • secure professional support and governor training as needed to ensure effective governance.

Multi-academy trusts should:

  • review schemes of delegation annually and ensure that clear lines of accountability, back to trust board level, are understood and effective
  • publish each academy’s annually reviewed scheme of delegation on the website of the multi-academy trust and ensure that local governing boards, where they exist, fully understand their roles and responsibilities
  • ensure that local governing boards use support from experts across the trust and beyond to closely monitor the performance of schools where they have delegated responsibility for doing so.

I do not have much issue with these recommendations so far.

Self review by reflecting on our work internally or with the assistance of an NLG (declaring an interest here!) is something I have no issue accepting. We should all reflect at the end of each academic year on our performance as a governor. Have we contributed at meetings? Have we offered challenge and support? Have we completed any training and shared that with our colleagues? Have we read enough to keep up to date? Are we on the right committees? Do we engage with information services? Do we attend our local governor forum meetings (declaring an interest here too!)?

I will not repeat the whole report and leave you to have that pleasure yourself.

However, a storm erupted on social media at this :

Paying the chairs of governing bodies can act as a means to achieving a professional and open relationship between governors and school leaders.

Ofsted suggested that a way to address weak governance was to pay chairs of governing bodies.  The watchdog found that paid chairs often have “more open and honest discussions” with headteachers.


I took slight issue with the assumption that I was not professional or did not have an open and honest relationship with colleagues and school leaders because I was an unpaid volunteer.

Many views for and against payment for chairs took place! Where would the money come from? How many ‘professionals’ who do not volunteer now would change their mind if they were paid? Could the chair remain impartial if they were paid by the school? Would the annual election of the chair get in the way of the process? Will paying a reluctant chair improve their professionalism? Should the chair of a MAT be paid? Being a member of a governing board was a way to give something back to the community and that should not be undermined. Were the surveys large enough to draw those conclusions?

The suggestion of payment conflicts with the view of the National Governors’ Association, which states chairs and all governors should remain a voluntary unpaid role and state their position in their blog

What do you think? Time to debate it again?



3 Responses

  1. Raj Unsworth


    Time to debate again, educational landscape changed so much and still changing (think MATs, FSs….), governing is increasingly onerous both in terms of time and complexity and we have ever increasing scrutiny of our work. Quite rightly, as good effective Governance is essential to outcomes for young people.

    NGA’ s views are based on a survey with 7,713 respondents. We have approx 350,000 governors. The survey therefore only represents about 2% of all governors. I support the work of the NGA (I’m always encouraging GBs to join) but should it/we not be looking at how to reach the other 98% to seek their views?

    • JaneOwens

      I am also a firm advocate of the NGA and always recommend governors to join when I do reviews/health checks. Conferences and networking opportunities alone make membership worthwhile. I think, sometimes, only the ‘converted’ respond to any surveys and we perhaps need a better way to gauge opinions of more? Not sure how many members there are with NGA membership so I agree that more should be engaged in the debates/surveys. If 7713 responded then how many didn’t?
      I agree the landscape has changed hugely. Accountability and probity and integrity should run through all we do but, sadly, that is not always the case. I do advocate a mandatory, localised, induction training for governors and more engagement with local forums. We learn so much from each other and looking outwards. Thanks for the comment Raj.

  2. Fee Stagg

    There is a wealth of talent offered to support our pupils and students by governors across the country. We may have different beliefs, backgrounds, skills and interests but the overwhelming majority of us have pupils best interests at heart. Whether we are paid or not is something we need to discuss ‘without fear or favour’ but ultimately must be seen in the context of ensuring all pupils get the best education this country can offer irrespective of where they live and who their parents are and how much money they have. As citizens in a democratic society it is the duty of all of us to play our part in securing a positive future for these young people. This debate about paying me to be a governor is a sideshow in my opinion. I was lucky enough to have a free university education it is a shame this generation of young people are worrying about debt at 17 and potentially missing out on a unique chance to grow up and explore their learning. Perhaps we should be debating that one NGA and Ofsted?

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