How to recruit trustees and local governors
Work through these step-by-step processes to recruit new trustees and local governors. Find help with identifying your needs, advertising the role, screening candidates and making the appointment.
Use our other article if you're looking to recruit maintained school governors.
Conduct a skills audit to identify your board's needs
The first step when recruiting new local governors is to identify what skills and experience your board needs from a new member, for it to be effective.
The skills your local governing body needs will depend on what responsibilities are delegated to it. You'll need to make sure you have the skills and experience to monitor the areas your trust board has tasked you with monitoring. Check your scheme of delegation to make sure you're clear on this before starting recruitment.
Adapt our skills audit to reflect your board's needs or use our tips to build you own. You'll find both in our article on governors' skills audits
If any third-party organisations are helping you recruit new local governors, share your audit results and scheme of delegation with them.
Clarify who does what in the appointment process
Who appoints local governors will depend on your LGB’s terms of reference and schemes of delegation. The board of trustees will usually appoint local governors to your LGB, but you may need to source candidates and present them to the trust board for approval and appointment. Check with your trust's governance lead or chair of trustees if you aren't sure on this.
If you have parent representation on your LGB, they'll need to be elected. Find out more in our article on parent governor elections.
See article 54 of the Department for Education’s model articles of association.
Use a free recruitment organisation like Governors for Schools
Finding governors can be tricky. Governors for Schools is a charity that will find you governors with the specific skills you need, for free.
You can make use of its skills-based matching service to find prospective governors who have the skills you're looking for.
Before you sign up, conduct your skills audit and decide on your required start date. You can then register your vacancy with them, specifying the skills you're looking for, and they'll start looking for a suitable volunteer.
Create a tailored advert
In your advert, set out:
- Who can apply
- The role and functions of the LGB
- What training and development opportunities they'll get
- A brief description of your school and trust
- The expectations of new local governors, particularly regarding their attendance at meetings
- The skills and experience that you want your new local governors to have
Use our role description templates to help. The article also includes examples from schools.
Point out how valuable prospective candidates' existing skills are
People are often surprised that their professional skills from the workplace are valued on a school's local governing body.
By linking these with the skills needed for a particular role, you help them to realise that they're suitable for the job.
Highlight the new skills they'll gain
Explain that school governance allows you to develop your skills, both personally and professionally. Local governors could add the following skills and experience to their CV:
- Strategic planning
- Experience on a board
- Holding senior leaders to account
- Finance, and maintaining oversight of potentially multimillion-pound budgets
- Human resources and performance management
- Project management
- Communication and teamwork
- Decision making
Adjust these to reflect what's delegated to the LGBs in your trust.
Mitigate the common concerns
Address potential concerns and misconceptions head-on. People can often think that:
- It'll take up all their time
- Explain upfront that governance usually requires about 6 to 8 hours per month (term time only)
- Only parents can be school governors
- This is an easy one to refute!
- If they're a parent, they'll be pressured by other parents to bring up certain issues
- Explain that parent governors aren't delegates and don't speak 'on behalf' of the parent body. The role and responsibilities are no different from those of the other governors
- They aren't experienced enough because they haven't been on a board before
- To make the role seem less intimidating, explain that school governors are the largest volunteer force in education, with around 210,000 governors in England, and highlight the training they'll receive
- There will be a better candidate
- Reiterate that your board is in need of applicants, and point out that there's a national vacancy rate of 10% – i.e. there are many empty seats
Attract the right people
Tailor your 'selling points'
Emphasise different benefits depending on what will resonate most with the people you want to recruit. Consider your context and think about your community.
- If you're targeting professionals, highlight the professional development and CV-building angle
- Emphasise the opportunity to gain board-level experience, strategic decision-making skills, and experience of performance management at a high level
- If you're contacting big companies or those in the corporate sector, highlight the philanthropic nature of the role – many people in the corporate sector are keen to give back in their spare time
- Big companies also often have a corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiative and are keen to encourage volunteering among their employees, so you could ask them to include governance in their CSR programmes
- If you’re in a rural setting, you could focus more on the 'giving back' angle and community engagement
- If you need younger people on your board – push the job experience angle
- Younger people are unlikely to get this board-level experience in their normal career paths for a long time
Look for candidates in your school community
You might have good candidates on your doorstep already:
- Look at previous parent governor applicants – some excellent candidates may have just lost out in an election
- If you still have their statement it'll demonstrate the skills they have, so you'll quickly be able to see if they fill a skills gap
- Ask your staff, parents and current local governors whether they have friends with the skills you’re looking for
- Try your school alumni network if you have one – although you need to make sure your school has previously got the alumni's consent to contact them
Think about diversity on your board
There are many objective benefits of increasing the diversity on your board. For example, the Governance Handbook points out that the inclusion of diverse perspectives and characteristics on governing boards:
- Leads to more robust decision-making (page 15)
- Has a positive impact on strategic direction (page 36)
- Promotes inclusive school environments and provides diverse role models for pupils and staff (page 41)
Use our article on resources for tackling diversity on your board for advice on how to recruit more diverse talent, including working with agencies that specialise in helping boards diversify.
Publicise your vacancy in the right places
Here are some ways to publicise your vacancy, or groups to contact. In all cases, make sure you emphasise what skills you're looking for:
- Local voluntary organisations e.g. chambers of commerce
- Local business centres and business parks
- Community buildings
- Post an advert on Facebook and ask parents and others in your school community to share it
- Put adverts in the local papers
- Ask local businesses – target them if they have the skills you need, e.g. HR companies, accountancy firms or law firms
Use our template letter for to make contact with local business and organisations:
Create an application pack
If you're not using a recruitment service, or would like to do your own screening as well, use our template application form.
As part of your application pack, make sure applicants have enough information to make an informed choice about applying for the role.
Meet all prospective local governors
This will help you:
- Make sure they know what's expected of them
- Get a sense of what they will be like to work with, and get a more accurate impression of them as people
Ideally, arrange for them to go on a tour of the school with the headteacher, too.
If you're conducting an interview, take a look at our interview questions for prospective governors.
References aren't required, but are common practice. Seeking a reference will help you confirm that your new local governors have the skills you need. If you want to seek a reference, use our template referee form and reference letter.
Conduct safeguarding checks
All local governors need to have a DBS check. Read more about DBS checks for trustees.
Induct your new local governor
Training and induction
Once you've appointed your local new governor, the chair of the local governing body should:
- Adapt and send our model welcome letter
- Meet with the new local governor, if they haven't already
Then, arrange an induction. Use our checklist for new governors – a step-by-step guide to the tasks they should undertake. Point them in the direction of our induction course for academy governors on local governing bodies. They can take this course in 1 go, or in smaller chunks as it suits them, and they'll get a certificate for passing the assessment.
Read more about organising an effective induction in our full range of articles.
Matt Miller is a national leader of governance and delivers training programmes for governing bodies. He is the chair of governors of an 'outstanding' school in north London.