New IoD report to help business leaders go ‘Back to School’ as governors

24th Oct 2018

In a new report released today, the Institute of Directors has set out six key challenges facing school governors, as it seeks to encourage and enable business leaders to bring their expertise to the boards of schools and school trusts.

In his foreword to the paper, the Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds, underlines that “the role of governance in our school system cannot be underestimated”, and goes on to ask, “if you can get the best out of a team of high-flying executives, then why not use those skills to help improve schools for our children?”

The paper, Back to School: common challenges facing school governors and company directors, provides an accessible guide to the governance of schools and school trusts for business leaders. It examines central aspects of the schools governor role, such as managing conflicts of interest and holding school leadership to account, outlining how these translate to similar features in the field of corporate governance.

The publication of the report follows a joint call from the Secretary of State and the IoD’s Director General to the Institute’s 30,000 members, urging them to make use of their business acumen in the education sector.

Dr Roger Barker, Head of Corporate Governance at the Institute of Directors and author of the report, said:

Given the fundamental role schools play in society, it’s imperative that they are run to the highest standards. The business community has transferable skills that can be applied to schools governance for everyone’s benefit. It’s important we encourage this cross-fertilization to further strengthen the governance of schools across the country.        

There are clear lines of similarity between the boards of schools and those of private enterprises. Assessing emerging risks, holding management to account, steering organisational culture and managing conflicts of interest are part and parcel of both worlds.

Being on a school board can also be a way of acquiring governance experience that can later be applied in a business context. Recruiters are increasingly waking up to the competences and insights that school governors can bring to the table. In fact, with corporate governance putting increasing emphasis on juggling the perspectives of a diverse range of stakeholders, school board experience could prove an even greater head-start, as it involves intensive engagement with parents, students, local residents and regulators.

In short, suitability for a board-level position is increasingly seen as demanding a wider range of skills and experiences than just a track record in management, which historically has been the classic route onto the board."

MHA MacIntyre Hudson Education Partner Alyson Howard added:

With the education sector, particularly academies, under ever greater public and political scrutiny, good governance must come first. There is much that education can learn from business, and even more that business leaders can learn from education.

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