The University of Manchester - School Governor Initiative

Education Award, supported by UKCES 2014, Big Tick, Shortlisted, Reaccredited 2015, 2016.

The University of Manchester is improving leadership in state schools by encouraging staff and alumni to become school governors, which develops their skills and builds relationships with institutions which provide future students.

Social impacts

  • Created the fastest growth in school governors of any employer in England during 2013/14 – one year ahead of the three-year target.
  • The university’s 241 staff and alumni school governors volunteered around 2,892 days, and had an impact on around 84,350 learners.
  • In an independent report, Viewforth Consulting calculated the economic value of the university’s staff governors to be more than £750,000 in 2012/13.

Business impacts

  • All staff governors agreed their experience exposed them to new skills and knowledge, which they can apply to their university roles.
  • The scheme led to the development of new HR policies, supporting other projects which link voluntary time off to staff development, for example the first whole-institutional participation in Give and Gain Day 2014.
  • The scheme has deepened relations with the university’s ‘supply-chain’, i.e. institutions providing future students.

Social responsibility is one of our three core strategic goals, sitting equally alongside our other commitments to world-class research and outstanding learning. In this strategy we have prioritised six flagship Signature Programmes, one of which is our School Governor Initiative. We know there is a wide gulf between independent and state school achievement. We wanted to contribute to the leadership and improvement of state schools by engaging our staff and former students in creating the largest growth of School Governors of any workplace organisation in England – and the evidence is we have succeeded. 

- Will Spinks,
Chief Operating Officer
School governors are the largest group of volunteers in UK education. They play an increasingly pivotal role in ensuring high educational standards, supporting and challenging head teachers, setting strategic direction and monitoring progress. Yet many schools facing the most challenging circumstances are unable to recruit governors with appropriate skills.

The University of Manchester’s School Governor Initiative inspires staff and former students to become volunteer school governors. Working with SGOSS, a national charity whose role it is to match prospective governors with schools, it contributes to the leadership and improvement of state schools by encouraging staff and alumni to take up governor vacancies where there is most need.

The university set an ambitious target to create the largest growth of school governors of any workplace organisation in England – and recently succeeded in meeting this.

With a workforce of more than 11,000 talented staff, the university ensured those with academic, estate management, finance, law, marketing, human resources and student welfare skills were recruited and matched to support local schools. It expanded this to its vast alumni database, widening the scheme’s impact across all of England.

Head teachers have reported improvements in their schools as a result, while the university benefits from improved leadership, HR management, financial and estate management skills in its staff. This saves money on providing more formal training opportunities.

Many of the schools the programme reaches are key ‘feeder institutions’, supplying the university with students. Through their dual role, governors can make schools aware of study opportunities, supporting the university’s student recruitment strategy.

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