School Governors: Top Challenges and Priorities for 2023 

Recent research shows the top challenges and priorities for school governors in 2023. Discover how One Education is supporting governors to navigate their role whilst promoting wellbeing and work-life balance.
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Governors make up the largest volunteer group in England, with over 300,000 working in schools across the country. They perform an essential role in the education system, supporting headteachers and senior leaders with the running of the school. Whilst the headteacher takes responsibility for day to day operations, the role of the governing body is more strategic and focused on the long-term vision for the school. Governors come from all walks of life, but they are united by their shared passion for education and improving outcomes for children.  

As experts in shaping the vision and strategic direction of schools, governors can offer a unique and profound insight into the education sector. Each year, the National Governance Association (NGA) carries out a survey to collect the views and perspectives of governors nationwide. This data helps to identify challenges faced by schools and trusts across the country, as well as the strategic priorities that governing bodies have set for the year ahead.  

In September 2023, the NGA released findings from their latest survey

  • Balancing the budget emerged as the biggest overall challenge facing schools and trusts across all regions and school types. For the first time, less than 60% of governors report that they are able to balance their income and expenditure. They say this is largely due to the energy crisis and concerns about staff pay.  

  • Pupil attendance ranked amongst the top three challenges as well as the top three strategic priorities for all schools and trusts. This reflects national data which shows that attendance has yet to recover from the pandemic, in part due to a shift in attitudes towards full-time schooling.  

  • Worryingly, safeguarding issues have increased for 56% of schools and trusts, with bullying, neglect and domestic abuse being the most common concerns. This builds on a previous increase of 71% in 2022.  

  • The next biggest challenge for primaries was support for pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), whilst providing a broad and balanced curriculum ranked as one of their top strategic priorities. In contrast, secondaries prioritised behaviour and exclusions, which was also one of their main challenges. 

  • Staff wellbeing and workload also emerged as a significant concern for schools and trusts. This was especially true for special schools, where it was identified as one of their top three challenges, alongside the problem of developing and retraining staff.  

As the education landscape becomes increasingly complicated, strategic decision-making by governing boards is more complex than ever. Yet, at a time when school governors are dealing with more and more challenging situations, one in four respondents say they are considering leaving the role. This figure is even higher amongst Chairs, as almost a third say they are thinking about resigning. Often, these are the individuals who feel most confident in their capabilities and contribute the most to the role. However, many feel that the workload is no longer manageable, especially as boards are struggling to recruit more volunteers.  

The survey shows that many governors serve for a number of years in their school communities, a testament to their hard work and dedication. Nevertheless, these findings highlight the importance of providing support, flexibility, mentoring programmes and networks to help governing boards manage the demands of school governance whilst also promoting wellbeing and work-life balance.  

One Governor

One Education is here to help. 

One Governor is an all-in-one support package, designed to support both for experienced governors and those who are new to the role, with the challenges highlighted in the National Governance Association survey. Developed by leading experts in all matters of school governance, our high-quality support package is designed to help governors gain confidence in making strategic decisions and holding headteachers to account, whilst also staying up to date with best practice. 

As a virtual service, governors from schools and trusts across the country can gain access to our ready-to-use resources, termly handbooks and governor support helpline. Subscribers to the One Governor support package can also take part in our full suite of online training, briefings and CPD for no extra cost.  

Our training sessions will focus on school and academy finance, attendance, safeguarding, SEND, curriculum, managing behaviour, and more – equipping governors with the skills to confidently navigate the current challenges in education and achieve their school priorities.  

Whilst the programme will be delivered virtually, we will ensure there are plenty of opportunities for discussion and interaction, allowing members to collaborate and grow their professional networks.  

We understand that school and trust governors often lead busy lives, juggling their roles with other commitments. With this in mind, we will record each training event and send a link for members to access the session at a time and place that is convenient for them.  

Governors will receive training certificates on completion that can be used to evidence governor self-development. 

Take a look at our online brochure to learn more about our Governor Training Programme for 2023-24.

If you would like to subscribe to the One Governor service, please get in touch.  

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