To date, UK schools have relied on the goodwill of volunteer school governors to attend governor meetings and participate in other school activities e.g. staff grievances, student disciplinaries, planning away days and link-governor school visits.

In October 2017, it was reported that schools in Kent alone have a shortage of 564 governor vacancies!   Across South East England, this could be as many as 2,000 governor vacancies or more.

Gone are the days where schools need governors to represent stakeholder groups. Instead they need governors with extensive experience and skills in various professional areas. This allows those governors to provide suitable scrutiny and challenge of school proposals, at the relevant committee meetings.

The problem is, how do you attract and retain part-time governors with the necessary background experience and skills, when all kinds of other organisations also complete to attract non-executive directors, including reimbursing their travel costs and paying a day rate for governance involvement?

Generally in life, you get what you pay for. If people give up their free time and pay their own travel costs to attend governor meetings, then the school can hardly complain about the quality of the governor contributions. Or even complain about a poor meeting attendance record, possibly making some meetings inquorate.

For private schools (funded by tuition fees), if school governors were paid a pro-rata day rate plus travel cost reimbursement, either the school fees would need to cover this cost, or it would be raised through fundraising and lettings activity. For state-funded schools, it’s unlikely that the government will prioritise funding governor fees over core education, so such fees and disbursements would need to be funded from other school sources including; after hours school lettings and annual fundraising events.

Two final points are (1) that introducing a fee and disbursement regime would need to apply to existing and newly recruited governors, in the interests of fairness. And (2) that once some schools start to pay governors fees and disbursements, other schools would need to quickly match these rates, or risk losing governor applicants (and existing governors) to those schools that do pay.  Food for thought?