Swindon school governor leads national campaign to recruit more ethnic minority volunteers

By Claire Dukes - 14 June 2018

EducationPrimaryVolunteering

A school governor is on a mission to create a more culturally diverse recruitment scheme of volunteers to benefit students' education.

As part of a national scheme, run by Inspiring Governance and the National Governance Association (NGA), a school governor from Wanborough is leading a campaign in Swindon to increase the number of people from ethnic minorities and younger age groups volunteering as school governors. Omar Mirza, who is a governor at Wanborough Primary School, stepped forward to support the 'Everyone on Board' campaign after learning that across England, just 4% school governors come from ethnic minorities, compared to around a third of pupils, whilst 10% school governors are aged under 40 with 1% aged under 30, according to the annual school governance survey 2017. There are an estimated quarter of a million school governors and trustees volunteering in state-funded schools in England, with one in 10 school governing positions vacant.

For the campaign, Omar appeared alongside other governors in a short film to share his personal insight and experience on the value of having diverse people overseeing schools. Omar says that diversity is important to avoid collective blind spots, and to provide role models so young people can see someone like them and think ‘I can do that too.’

Omar Mirza said: “I spend a lot of time coaching and developing black, Asian and minority ethnic people (BAME) to help them achieve their career and life goals through my employer’s ethnicity network. I consistently find that doing well in education is incredibly important in many cultures, so I was genuinely surprised that the number of BAME governors is so low.

Omar Mirza during filming

"I want to show people from different backgrounds that governance is for them and to encourage them to get involved in shaping how children are educated." The campaign was launched at the NGA’s summer conference on 9 June where it was welcomed by keynote speaker Secretary of State for Education, Damian Hinds. He said: “Good governance needs a range of voices. And that was powerfully on display in the video we have just seen – and I champion the work NGA are doing, through your Everyone on Board campaign, to encourage more diversity. "Governing and trust boards should reflect the communities they serve. So, I want to urge people from different backgrounds, different professions, to come forward – to offer up their time, energy, skills, and expertise… because so many people want to give something back to their community, this is truly one of the most valuable and far reaching ways you can do that." In the film, the governors explain that having volunteers that ‘come from different places and think different things’ share their skills, time and experience will bring diverse perspectives and a balance of views to conversations so that ‘barriers, biases and stereotypes do not go unchallenged’ and decisions will help children from all backgrounds to succeed and thrive. They also emphasise how having a diverse governing boards will create ‘a culture of inclusion, starting at the top’ providing role models for pupils to ‘give them confidence in what they can achieve’ and demonstrate the school’s commitment to diversity at all levels. People interested in becoming a school governor or trustee are encouraged to register with Inspiring Governance – a free, online service that connects volunteers who are interested in becoming governors and trustees with schools that need them. Those who are appointed through Inspiring Governance will receive 12 months of free support from NGA to enable them to feel effective and confident in their role. Through its work with governing boards, the NGA will support and encourage school governing boards to consider whether they reflect the community they serve and provide guidance and exemplars to help them address this. Eileen Brocklehurst, Regional Manager – South West at Inspiring Governance, said: “Being a school governor is a responsible yet rewarding role, and by sharing his personal experiences, I hope that Omar will inspire others across Swindon and beyond to step forward to support their schools so that they can be successful for everyone. "Omar’s pride and passion for governing really shines through in the film, and coupled with his valuable perspective on why having more governors from ethnic minorities and younger age groups is so important, I am confident that people will recognise the need for diverse volunteers and the difference they themselves can make. School communities and the pupils within them are vibrant and diverse, and we need governors of all ages, cultures and backgrounds to strengthen decision-making to ensure communities trust schools and all children can thrive.” Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association, added: “Governors and trustees donate their skills, time and experience to ensure all children can achieve their full potential. We are grateful to Omar and the other governors in our film for sharing their own stories and being part of a solution to the challenging a lack of diversity on governing boards. "Having diverse and balanced governing boards that reflect the communities they serve will ensure that different insights and perspectives shape conversations, and that thinking is robustly challenged, resulting in better decision-making and outcomes for all pupils."

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