The Differences Between Equality and Equity

Governors for Schools portrait

Written by Governors for Schools

Governors for School finds, places, and supports skilled volunteers as governors and trustees on school and academy boards. They support schools across England and Wales to run effectively by finding high calibre governors to bring their skills and expertise to the table – and improve education for children.

One of the reasons many governors volunteer their time to local school boards is to help make the educational landscape a fairer and more inclusive place. However, for all pupils to thrive, governors must appreciate the diverse and complex ways in which some members of the school community face a disproportionate number of educational obstacles compared to their peers. Such groups of pupils can include, but are not limited to: 

  • Pupils from less advantaged households. 
  • Students who have English as a second language. 
  • Pupils who have a disability as outlined by the Equality Act 2010. 
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community. 
  • People from ethnic minority backgrounds. 
  • And much more.   

Since launching our Inclusive Governance campaign, we’ve noted that one of the best ways governors can do their bit to make schools more inclusive is to make a conscious effort to discuss equality and equity in board meetings. But what do these terms mean?   

Put simply, equality means treating everyone the same way, irrespective of factors such as status or identity. Equity, on the other hand, means treating people differently in certain circumstances for equality of opportunity to be possible.  

Creating equity is important within society as it puts students on a more level playing field, leads to better social and economic outcomes across wider society, allows students to feel more engaged and looked after, and leaves staff feeling more confident that they’re succeeding in their role.  

The following illustration from the Interaction Institute for Social Change demonstrates that while equality means giving everyone access to the same resources, some people may not be able to utilise these resources due to factors outside of their control. As such, governing boards must put measures in place to ensure their actions are both equal and equitable, ensuring every pupil has the same experience.  

When it comes to speaking about providing equity within schools, it’s important that governing boards are… 

  1. Advocating for equality and equity within the wider vision and strategic direction of a school.

Consider whether the school’s vision and strategic direction is relevant and beneficial to all pupils. Governors could, for example, ask questions about targeted measures the school is taking to raise attainment among less advantaged pupils or those with special educational needs and disability (SEND), as well as how they will measure success in this area. Beyond academic attainment, governors may ask questions about whether the school is living up to its stated values, such as community-mindedness, compassion, or friendship. For example, does the school provide reintegration support for vulnerable pupils who may have spent time outside of school? Is this support appropriate and tailored to their different and potentially complex needs? 

  1. Having discussions with students, caregivers, staff, and other stakeholders to understand how policies and actions being taken by the school are likely to affect them.

Having meaningful discussions across the school community can be a great way to catch underlying flaws in current plans. For example, ensuring lighting and paint colours on walls take into consideration visually impaired children. Other issues could include talking to people within the transgender community about changes to policies surrounding changing their names on registers. 

  1. Looking closely at budgets and determining whether the school’s financial decisions benefit pupils in an equitable way. 

As a board, listening to every governor’s perspective about the allocation of resources is a great way to ascertain whether funds are appropriately spent. For example, a governor with a background in SEND issues may have a very different perspective from a governor with experience of an alternative provision education. As this campaign highlights, attracting governors from a wide range of backgrounds onto school boards is one of the best ways to ensure pupils from across the community are well-represented.  

Catch up with the rest of our Inclusive Governance campaign  

For more support on pushing for inclusive practices within your governing landscape, you can have a look at our campaign webpage. You can also follow us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and/or Facebook for updates on the campaign.   


How Well Do You Know Your Governance Professionals?

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Written by The Key

The Key is the leading provider of whole-school support for schools and trusts.

On International Women’s Day (8 March) 2023, GovernorHub, part of The Key Group, released a research report delving into the salaries and working patterns of 1,298 governance professionals working in schools and trusts. 

It sheds light on the often-hidden roles of governance professionals, who this research reveals are indeed predominantly female, and explores how their salaries fare against those in comparable roles in other sectors. 

See the key findings of the report below, and some recommended actions to help overcome pay disparities to support the recruitment and retention of talent in these important roles.

Key findings

The survey of 1,055 clerks, 100 governance co-ordinators and 143 governance leads found that:

  • Around 90% of governance professional roles in schools and trusts are filled by women, making this one of the most female-dominated careers in the education sector and beyond
  • The majority (85%) of clerks surveyed reported working part time – for governance co-ordinators it’s 49%, and for governance leads it’s 37% – which is far higher than the government’s national employment data at 23% of working-age people working part time in 2021
  • Almost a third (30%) of all female governance professionals surveyed reported having taken a career break due to caring responsibilities, compared to 4% of male respondents
  • Clerking roles in schools and trusts appear to have the largest salary discrepancies, with a median salary of £25,000 pro-rata, which is substantially lower than the median salary for equivalent roles in the local government (£33,782), public services (£33,636), and not-for-profit (£31,620) sectors
  • Over half (54%) of clerks surveyed reported feeling ‘underpaid’ or ‘extremely underpaid’; comments from some respondents suggest this is often caused by needing to work more hours than are allocated to each task or meeting 
  • A lack of visibility and understanding of clerking roles, combined with their increasing complexity, might be contributing to the stagnation of pay felt by many clerks surveyed

A quote from one part time clerk respondent illustrates a lack of awareness, in some cases, of this role:

“Having worked for 10 years with the school, I had to ask for my salary to be reviewed a couple of years ago and the rate was upped. I checked my letter of appointment and it said my salary would be reviewed every year – I pointed this out, but it isn’t reviewed every year. I think my role falls through the cracks. As a part time employee, I don’t know if I am missing out on any other work benefits, pension etc., and whether I’m entitled to equipment to help me to do my job.”


To help improve working conditions for governance professionals and, in doing so, help recruit and retain valuable talent for the sector:

  • Employers – should use annual appraisal meetings as an opportunity to review and benchmark pay, and follow government guidance on reducing your organisation’s gender pay gap 
  • Self-employed individuals – should negotiate hourly rates in line with benchmarked salaries, as well as hours assigned to each task
  • Everyone working in governance professional roles – should set and share a working-time schedule to help improve work/life balance, and join a union, to help give them a voice and professional advice


GovernorHub’s research report gives governance professionals in schools and trusts the evidence to show what they’re worth, and to look to align their pay with equivalent roles in other sectors. 

The report recommends that employers and individuals take action to overcome the pay disparities, and ensure that governance professionals are recognised and rewarded appropriately. 

By taking these actions, the education sector can strengthen its workforce of governance professionals who play such a vital role in supporting our schools and trusts. Championing these key roles will only serve to support the best possible educational outcomes for our children and young people. 

Whistle-blowers are damn nuisances aren’t they?

Sonia Elmer-Soman portrait

Written by Sonia Elmer-Soman

Sonia Elmer-Soman has a background in both law and education. She is a qualified law lecturer and has many years’ experience working as a legal practitioner in two prestigious law firms in the City and now within a reputable law firm local to her home town in Essex. She is also a qualified primary school teacher and is a guest writer for professional journals.

– The Pitfalls of Whistleblowing in UK Schools

Official figures from the Standards and Testing Agency revealed that 793 maladministration investigations were carried out in 2018 – a rise of more than 50% in two years according to the Independent. 

Data compiled and analysed from the Teaching Regulation Agency, shows us that sexually motivated and other inappropriate conduct was the reason for a third of teaching bans between 2013 and 2018. 

The charity, Protect, say that between 2020 and 2022 they received the highest number of calls about wrongdoing in the education sector than any other profession. In the majority of cases concerns will have been raised by well- intentioned individuals or, as legislation has it, – Whistle-blowers.

What is whistleblowing?

Whistleblowing occurs when an employee raises a concern about an alleged wrongdoing, including corrupt, illegal or unethical behaviours in a public or private sector organisation. The disclosure must be in the public interest and not for private gain. 

Emma Knights, the Chief Executive of the National Governance Association, writes ‘Arguably the need to speak out is important in the education sector, which deals with young and vulnerable people , people to whom there is an overriding duty of care’. 

What are the pitfalls faced by whistle-blowers?

In reality, many whistle-blowers say they face micro-aggressions, spurious claims of misconduct, gas-lighting and compromised or lost career opportunities.

Writing for Protect, Louise O’Neill explains how ‘gas-lighting’ involves the whistle-blower being told  ‘they have not quite understood the situation’, that what they witnessed is ‘part of a bigger picture’  and that it is they who have ‘failed to fit in’. 

O’Neill cites psychologist Doctor Jennifer Freyd (https/ when explaining the concept of ‘DARVO’ – Deny, Accuse, Reverse, Victim and Offender. So now the whistle-blower will hear comments as ‘You are intimidating and harassing me’ and ‘Your messages are harassing and hurtful to me’.

Discrimination following whistle-blowing does not end when the whistle-blower leaves the school gates. ‘Work and life intertwine in teaching’, ‘with threads running into and over other threads’.

Whistle-blowers may never have come across the term and it is not a particularly helpful one. They may not know that a school has a whistle-blowing policy and there are strict guidelines to follow. 

There is no legal aid available for whistle-blowers and legal advice can be expensive. Furthermore, what falls within the arena of a protected disclosure can be confusing.

The All Party Parliamentary Group believes that legislation is no longer ‘fit for purpose’. They are seeking a revised definition of whistle-blowing to include ‘any harmful violation of integrity and ethics’, even when not criminal or illegal. 


Without access to legal advice before, during and after whistle-blowing, it is likely that a whistle-blower will find themselves having to evidence concerns, mend reputational damage and deal with resulting treatment, causing them to mis-step in the process or face detriment even when they have followed due process.

For instance, a professional couple were forced out of their jobs from a school in the south of England for exposing ‘systematic exam malpractice’. Rianna Croxford. ‘Whistleblowers: We spoke out and lost our jobs’. (15th July 2019) BBC News. (

It is a failing in the system that claims of unfavourable treatment following whistleblowing are commonly dealt with under an internal grievance policy. This means that the organisation whom concerns have been raised against, is then in charge of determining the outcome. 

In one case, a SEN teacher lost her job when a panel found she had stood on a pupil’s foot while he screamed, pushed a pupil down when he tried to get up and shouted and screamed at children. However, the teaching assistant who raised concern was ostracised and ultimately dismissed from her position. 

Laura Fatah, Policy Officer of Protect writes “The problem of accessing justice when you’ve lost your job, have no lawyer, and are facing a strong armed employer is sadly all too familiar’. 

Croxford reports only 3% of the 1,369 employment tribunal cases brought in connection with test maladministration between 2017 and 2018 were successful according to Government figures. A report by the University of Greenwich found that when examining employment tribunal outcomes between 2015-2018, women who whistle-blow are less likely to be represented or succeed.

What are the challenges and benefits of whistle-blowing for leadership? 

School leaders perform a delicate balancing act in protecting all stakeholders including the rights of individual(s) whom claims are made against. 

Dealing with concerns effectively can demonstrate an appetite for improvement, minimise the risk of more serious breaches, enhance structural practices, increase productivity, retain vital skills and encourage the best applicants. 

Failing to listen and investigate concerns can result in reputational damage and time lost in defending claims and resulting legal proceedings.

Perhaps the worst injustice, however, is to the very people to whom there is an overriding duty of care and for whom the vast majority of staff work tirelessly to educate and safeguard – the children. Every child Matters. Every school day matters. Every year group matters.

Let’s Fix It.

Protect is seeking to reform the law so that whistle-blowers have access to greater legal support and guidance, while Baroness Kramer’s Bill introducing an Office of the Whistle-blower is working its way through the House of Lords. Schools which are geared up to deal with concerns effectively, will already be ahead of the curve whatever future changes in law and practice may follow.

How can leadership teams engage effectively with whistle-blowers?

  1. Look and interpret facts and patterns. Have concerns been raised before?
  2. Containing a situation is not the same as dealing with it. 
  3. Do not make the whistle-blower do your job. Whistle-blowers are witnesses/messengers, not investigators.
  4. Maintain confidentiality
  5. Avoid impromptu, unrepresented meetings. 
  6. Avoid polarising individuals, as this serves only to distract from the original concern.
  7. Create a safe environment in which stakeholders can voluntarily disclose mistakes/breaches.
  8. Roll out training on your School’s whistle-blowing policy.
  9. Embed a culture of honesty. 
  10. Imagine potential harm if an individual turned the other cheek to something they knew to be wrong, because they have seen how a previous whistle-blower was treated.
  11. Consider whether it is appropriate to have staff and Governors as eg, Facebook “Friends”, who have access to and are commenting on every aspect of your personal life. 
  12. Look around your School. Who sits on your leadership team and at the table of the Board of Governors? Is diversity reflected anywhere? Lack of such can lead to conformity of thought and exclusion in dealing with concerns.

What can whistle-blowers do to mitigate loss?

  1. Consult with a Solicitor, the CAB, ACAS or speak with Protect or WhistleblowerUK before you raise the concern and harness that support going forward.
  2. Read the whistle-blowing policy before raising a concern.
  3. Be clear what and why you are raising a concern.
  4. Ensure meetings are scheduled, recorded and you are represented. 
  5. Be realistic. Potentially harmful cultures are rarely remedied by one person/small group particularly if lower down in the hierarchy.
  6. Avoid Colluding with other colleagues/witnesses. Others may speak up or they may not. Be prepared to go it alone.
  7. Be patient. Potentially harmful cultures will take time to unpick if found to be present.
  8. Do not sign any document (eg, NDA) without getting legal advice.
  9. Check in with your mental wellbeing. The institution will stand long after you have gone. If there isn’t the vision for change, you alone are not responsible for it.

‘Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching’ (C.S. Lewis)

Against the backdrop of a system that is largely autonomous and results driven, structures and procedures can become ethical quagmires and a perfect storm for conflict. 

Protect asks us to hold each-other to account courageously. Indeed, there is a moral imperative to do so.

‘School leaders can find themselves in uncomfortable positions’, but by working together ‘the best leaders will use the experience as a catalyst for change’. 

#DiverseEd’s Top 10 Blogs of 2020-21

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Written by DiverseEd

Diverse Educators started as a grassroots network in 2018 to create a space for a coherent and cohesive conversation about DEI. We have evolved into a training provider and event organiser for all things DEI.

We love to amplify the voices, share the journeys, and celebrate the stories of our community.  Our blogs vary from sharing lived experience, to reflecting on classroom practice and curriculum design, to evaluating the impact of policy changes. We published 150 blogs from our network last academic year. You can meet our bloggers here and you can review our collection here.

Deepening our thinking around DEI starts with who and what we are reading, helping us to develop our confidence and our competence, both individually and collectively. Reading the blogs by our community provokes reflection and stimulates conversations to help us all understand the breadth and the depth of issues we need to develop an awareness of. 

Themes explored in the 2020-21 blog collection include: allyship, belonging, careers, coaching, commitment, community, curriculum, culture, governance, HR, identity, ITTE, language, leadership, policy, recruitment, reflection, representation, research, safeguarding, strategy, teaching, wellbeing. 


Here are our Top 10 Most-Read #DiverseEd Blogs in the 2020-21 academic year:

  1. How do we deal with racism in the classroom – Hannah Wilson 
  2. How to promote an anti-racist culture in social work – Wayne Reid 
  3. Interactive diversity calendar 2021 – Carly Hind/ Dual Frequency 
  4. How does material deprivation intersect with ethnicity to understand the variations in the achievement among BAME students – Nicole Edwards 
  5. Don’t tuck in your labels – Bennie Kara 
  6. Dear Secretary of State – Hannah Wilson 
  7. Gender is wibbly wobbly and timey wimey and gloriously so – Matthew Savage 
  8. Engaging with diversity – giving pupils a voice – Gaurav Dubay 
  9. Black lives matter, then now always – Wayne Reid 
  10. Breaking the cycle anti-racist plan term 1 – Dwain Brandy 

Thank you to everyone who has contributed to our #DiverseEd date and please do get in touch if you would like us to publish you. You can find out more about how to submit here.

Dear Secretary of State

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators


Since July 2020, we have held a quarterly Diversity Roundtable with national stakeholders invested in, and committed to, a system-wide strategy for collaborating on a DEI strategy in our schools. We collectively wrote to the DfE, the SoS, the NSC and the Equalities Team on March 1st. We are yet to receive an acknowledgement to our concerns. We have agreed to publish the letter as an open source, in the hope that we can move this conversation forwards.

The Diversity Roundtable:

March 1st 2021

Dear Secretary of State,

We are writing to you publicly as The Diversity Roundtable, a collective of professionals and specialists working in the field of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), to express our alarm at the recent withdrawal of funding in multiple areas in schools and Further Education. The cuts include: The Department for Education’s Equality and Diversity fund for school-led projects, to accelerate the diversification of protected characteristic groups in school leadership; English Second Other Language (ESOL) funding reduced by 50% in Further Education; and Equalities Office fund cut for anti-homophobic and anti-trans bullying. The lack of action concerning the Gender Reform Act has been disappointing, considering the anti-trans rhetoric nationally.

Now is a critical time for the Department for Education to enable schools and colleges to address structural inequity. We ask for a staged approach to impact on the sector to apply and embed professional learning from research specifically around race; embed best practice to update policy enactment; facilitate organisational change through specialist intervention and apply DEI sector knowledge to increase recruitment and retention both in leadership and the wider teacher workforce (see Appendix A).

The current situation suggests nationally and internationally discourse about and impact on protected characteristic groups has been the most significant in a generation. Events such as the brutal murder of George Floyd by a representative of a public sector organisation and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests have influenced the direction of the country underlining significant inequity in the structures of our institutions. Currently schools and colleges face these challenges without any funding to address legacies of inaction.

We feel it is highly problematic not to address such concerns when research identifies schools as sites where racism is grown through structures (Warmington, 2020; Callender, 2020; Callender and Miller, 2019; Lander 2017; Bhopal, 2018; Gillborn, 2015; Parker and Roberts, 2011; Marx 2016; Ladson-Billings, 1999; Williams 1991). Racism is fostered and, at best, passively nurtured through professional gaps in knowledge and skills of DEI, uncritical pedagogic and curricula approaches and a limited range of lived experiences in leadership to address such practice. In addition, schools and colleges face historic bias in curricula, unchallenged majoritarian attitudes in the workforce and are now responding to families demanding change for their children.

We believe inequity in our schools presents a national challenge that needs to be addressed with national funding. It is our hope that in accordance with the Equality Act and 1 Public Sector Equality Duty (2010) all families, teachers, support staff and children, regardless of where they live, how many schools are in their Trust or the funding situation of their Local Authority, be protected from systemic inequalities in schools. We therefore ask for specific DEI funding for schools and colleges in order to provide geographical parity across the United Kingdom. We believe action is required in the following areas:

  1. Funding to address lack of racial diversity in leadership;
  2. Funding and training to protect students and staff from inequity in schools through addressing gaps in Teacher Standards;
  3. Funding to support serious focus on those with protected characteristics in the recruitment and retention strategies both in school and in Initial Teacher Education;
  4. Funding for schools and colleges to address professional gaps in curricula knowledge and skills.

The government has a responsibility to ensure that the Race Relations (Amendment) Act (2000), the Equality Act and Public Sector Equality Duty (2010) are upheld. School and college leaders have taken seriously and demonstrated agency in their responsibility to challenge structural discrimination and inequality for many years; examples such as Anderton Park Primary in Birmingham demonstrate the cost, time and nuanced complexity of this work for staff and the wider impact of upholding the law for communities and families.

The social and educational impact of COVID 19 and wider effects of the pandemic on people from different social class and Ethnic Minority backgrounds has underlined outcomes gained by structural privilege and laid bare the failure of our institutional structures to support children adequately at the point of need. It will be these families further disadvantaged by a workforce representing, interpreting and enacting policy by privileged groups in society.

It is our hope the Department seize this opportunity to provide funding and a structured approach to supporting schools and colleges to manage change. The teacher workforce is ready, invested and motivated to address structural inequity but needs funding and guidance in order to impact on children and staff as well as the communities they serve.

We extend an invitation to meet with the Diversity Roundtable by contacting the Chairs at  and to co-create ways forward.

Yours Faithfully,

Co-organisers of the Diversity Roundtable:

  • Angela Browne, Director, Nourished Collective
  • Claire Stewart-Hall, Director, Equitable Coaching
  • Hannah Wilson, Co-Founder and Director, Diverse Educators

Members of the Diversity Roundtable:

  • Adam McCann, CEO, Diversity Role Models
  • Aisha Thomas, Director, Representation Matters Ltd
  • Professor Dame Alison Peacock, CEO, Chartered College of Teaching
  • Allana Gay, BAMEed
  • Ann Marie Christian, Child 1st Consultancy Limited
  • Dr Anna Carlile, Head of the Department of Educational Studies, Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Aretha Banton, Co-Founder, Mindful Equity UK
  • Dr Artemi Sakellariadis, Director, Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education (CSIE)
  • Beth Bramley, Gender Balance Manager, Institute of Physics
  • Daniel Gray, Director, LGBTed
  • Diana Osagie, CEO, Courageous Leadership & The Academy of Women’s Leadership
  • Domini Leong, Chair, BAMEedSW
  • Elizabeth Wright, Editor of Disability Review Magazine, DisabilityEd Ambassador
  • Emma Hollis, Executive Director, NASBTT
  • Emma Sheppard, Founder, The MaternityTeacher PaternityTeacher Project
  • Hannah Jepson, Director, Engaging Success
  • James Noble-Rogers, Executive Director, UCET
  • Kiran Gill, CEO, The Difference
  • Laila El-Metoui, Founder, Pride in Education and Educating Out Racism
  • Liz Moorse, Chief Executive, Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT)
  • Lorraine Hughes, Director of Education, Chiltern Learning Trust
  • Mareme Mufwoko, Steering Group, WomenEd England
  • Marius Frank, Director, Achievement for All
  • Nadine Bernard, Founder, Aspiring Heads CIC
  • Nicole Ponsford, Founder, Global Equality Collective (GEC)
  • Pat Joseph, ARISEtime
  • Paul Whiteman, General Secretary, NAHT (National Association Head Teachers – school leadership union)
  • Ruth Golding, Founder, DisabilityEd
  • Sharon Porter, SPorterEdu Consulting
  • Professor Emeritus of the Harvey Milk Institute, Sue Sanders, Schools OUT UK
  • Sufian Sadiq, Director, Chiltern Teaching School Alliance
  • Susie Green, CEO, Mermaids
  • Professor Vini Lander, Director, The Centre for Race, Education and Decoloniality, Carnegie School of Education
  • Viv Grant, Director, Integrity Coaching Ltd
  • Youlande Harrowell, Co-Founder, Mindful Equity UK

Appendix A:

Increasing Recruitment and Retention:

Currently processes of recruitment and retention have led to a national figure of 14% of teachers from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds (sic) teaching in schools (DfE, 2020). Under 5% of Head Teachers come from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, despite areas with significantly higher numbers of people from ethnic minority backgrounds in the wider population (DfE, 2020). This has been consistent for some years without much scrutiny from the Department for Education; it was sadly not addressed specifically in the DfE Recruitment and Retention Strategy (2019). It remains less likely that people with protected characteristics will be able to join the profession or be retained in schools without cultures, processes and practices actively challenging existing structural barriers that lie within school structures (NEU/Runnymede, 2020). In addition, there remains a persistent lack of diversity in school governance, which contributes to and sustains the status quo in appointment to posts. The Equality and Diversity fund: for school-led projects recognised the underrepresentation in leadership providing one avenue for schools to address inequity. Without such funding,
schools will continue to enact practices that exclude and maintain majoritarian cultures as the ‘norm’ thereby families, children and staff will continue to feel marginalised and discriminated against.

Diversity as a Business Model:

The McKinsey report (2020) demonstrates that as an organisational business model this approach is flawed. There is now a plethora of reports, including from national government, outlining the business case for wider diversity and representation in organisations as means to meet demand and increase success rates (McKinsey, 2015; McGregor-Smith, 2017; Diversity at the Top, CIPD 2017, Ethnic bias in recruitment, CIPD 2019; Breaking Barriers to Inclusive Recruitment, CIPD, 2018; Recognising the bias in recruitment, CIPD, 2018). Past experience shows the sector that unless equity safeguards are consciously included, the effect of new policies is frequently to reinforce existing gender, race and class inequalities (Gillborn, 2014). In light of the Department for Education’s role in leading expectations for schools, fair and equitable working environments and creating a world class education system that actively prevents discrimination, we would ask that this decision is reviewed immediately.

Getting Skilled and Diverse Governors on Boards

Lydia Bower portrait

Written by Lydia Bower

Marketing and Communications Manager at education charity Governors for Schools.

The lack of diversity is, and has been for a long time, a problem on school governing boards. 

A diverse governing board is a stronger board, reflecting school communities and the wider country. In 2020, over 30% of our volunteers were from BAME backgrounds, and over 65% were under 45, not to mention having different socio-economic backgrounds, and diverse skills, life experiences, and perspectives.

But these stats aren’t representative of most school boards. In 2020, the NGA’s annual governance survey found that 94% of governors and trustees who were surveyed identified as white. Only 1% of respondents identified as Black/ African/Caribbean/Black British, 2% identified as Asian/Asian British, and 1% identified as mixed or being of multiple ethnic groups.

The same survey found that only 1 in 10 governors and trustees were under 40 (11%), and only 2% were under 30. Boards need people of all ages and backgrounds to challenge group think and ensure robust decision making. Younger governors also have a perspective on education older governors simply can’t replicate. While older governors undoubtedly bring valuable skills and experience to the board, they don’t have recent experience of the education system, or know what it’s like to be young now. 

We’ve created a quality mark for schools to use to show their commitment to finding skilled and diverse governors through an independent organisation. Displaying the mark is an assurance to all those in the school community that the board values diverse governance.

The survey figures are not reflective of the schools governors serve. The Department for Education’s school data for 2020 shows that in primary schools, 33.9% of pupils are of minority ethnic backgrounds. In secondary schools, 32.3% of pupils are of minority ethnic backgrounds. Of course, these figures will vary in different parts of the country, but the overall picture is one of governing boards failing to represent the communities they serve.

Boards that register vacancies with us have a higher chance of finding a new governor from a diverse background – in terms of both ethnicity and age. However, we understand that for many schools, while finding governors from diverse backgrounds is important, they also have a number of vacancies that need filling. Schools with more than one vacancy risk being left without the skills needed to run effectively. 

The quality mark is still a useful tool for schools who find recruiting new governors a challenge. It shows that they understand the need for diverse governance, and have taken steps to address it. 

In areas that aren’t very ethnically diverse, finding governors from BAME backgrounds can naturally be more difficult. However, the changes we saw in 2020, specifically the move to virtual governance, has opened up the possibility of having remote governors join boards. Although we expect to see governing boards resume face to face meetings in the next academic year, schools have had to adapt quickly to virtual meetings. This new way of meeting has led to an increase in the number of schools now considering remote governance and inviting those who don’t live locally to join the board. It’s an opportunity for boards to get the perspective and experience they need, and opens up hard-to-reach vacancies to a wider pool of volunteers.

Our webinar panel discussion in September 2020 discussed how to increase diversity on governing boards. The webinar featured a panel of educationalists and governance specialists talking about the steps boards can take to improve their diversity, and a key takeaway was not relying on personal contacts as this often results in recruiting people with similar backgrounds and experiences. By adding the quality mark to their website, schools can demonstrate their commitment to finding governors who can bring the skills, expertise, and diverse perspectives boards need to thrive. 

You can read a summary of the information shared, and watch the webinar recording.

Has your school registered vacancies with Governors for Schools? Download the quality mark and show your school’s commitment to skilled and diverse governance. 

Are you looking for new governors and want to prioritise finding volunteers who bring some diversity to the board? Register your governor vacancies with us online and we’ll search for a volunteer who best matches your requirements. 

Deepening and Demonstrating an Understanding of Diversity - A Governor’s Journey

Mair Bull portrait

Written by Mair Bull

Former teacher and content writer for BBC Bitesize. Now works at Manchester Metropolitan University in the Curriculum and Rise teams.

When the pandemic hit, I had only been a governor for a few months. Therefore, I felt compelled during the lockdown to take advantage of the many free webinars and training sessions that became available as everyone flocked to zoom and other similar platforms. 


I particularly enjoyed the sessions by Hannah Wilson and Diverse Educators – the recordings can be found here if you wish to check them out. I made notes about diversity, inclusion, decolonising the curriculum and specific ideas for governance around diversifying the board and recruitment – to name but a few!


The style of the sessions meant they felt approachable and empowering – normalising the discussions around race, culture, identity and disability. In fact, the sessions made it clear it was strange not to be challenging and questioning the current position within our schools. This was galvanised only a few months later when the world witnessed the death of George Floyd and the subsequent Black Lives Matter campaign.


Alongside these experiences, I was privileged to be part of a conversation about the importance of building a representative Drama curriculum in schools with the Royal Court Theatre, as part of my previous role with Open Drama UK.  Subsequently, the network published a really useful document for teachers on building a representative curriculum, which I highly recommend exploring.


During the governors meetings in 2020, I slowly felt more emboldened to ask those questions that Diverse Educators encourages us to pose; I triggered conversations about text choices and our curriculum, about the diversity and inclusion of staff and the recruitment process to our governing board, plus many more. As Hannah has said several times, it is uncomfortable to ask those questions, but they need to be posed. The status quo needs challenging. 


In December 2020 we had an Ofsted training session for governors across the Trust, and I was fired a question about the Equality Act in a mock-interview set up. I felt uneasy answering in front of a large number of senior leaders and hugely experienced governors, but I was able to outline what we had achieved in school, the provocations we had discussed, and our plans for the future. 


Then in March 2021, I experienced my first real Ofsted visit (virtual) as a governor. In my interview the importance of all that layering of knowledge and small but regular confrontations of the norm, felt acknowledged, important and relevant. I was able to talk about the value of diversity, inclusion, recruitment and curriculum with more confidence and power than I would have been able to a year ago. 


Like every school, we still have a long way to go but it is important to acknowledge the evolution and development from where we were before. I am really proud of the lovely school where I am a governor and the crucial progression that has been made on the journey out of special measures. It is important that I am educated and empowered to keep challenging the school to be the best version of itself as it can be. I am only small cog, but we as governors do have the power to enact change and empower others, steadily but positively. 


I am really pleased to say that we are now in a position to recruit new governors and are of course, determined to broaden the diversity of the board. If you are interested in a governance role in the Cheshire region please get in touch. 

Culture Vs Performance Scrutiny? Which is most important for a governing board to get right to fulfil its strategic role on race?

Dominic Judge portrait

Written by Dominic Judge

Director of Governance Programmes at Inspiring Governance

The recent Diverse Educators series on Diverse Governance has got me thinking. The recurring theme is that developing the right culture in your governing board is the most critical step to getting equality and diversity right in your school. If you like… ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. But are there other ways of tackling racial inequality?

I’ve been a continuously serving governor for the last 15 years in a variety of school and catchment contexts. I’ve also been a Diversity Training Manager in the police after the tragic murder of Stephen Lawrence and worked at the National College for Teaching and Leadership, not least leading a range of work to diversify senior school leadership. 

From what I’ve seen in all these contexts, culture is critical in successfully addressing racial inequality. A culture of leadership, personal commitment, brave discussion and a collective willing of boards and decision makers to educate and self-examine themselves in order to move forward. 

However, my experience has shown me that it is also about fundamentally ensuring race equality is elevated front and centre of organisational performance too. This means that race equality is on agendas, data is sought and scrutinised, actions are taken (and funded), and outcomes/ performance are scrutinised and challenged as forensically as any other element of performance. A good culture means this is easier to do but it can be done as the right culture is being developed.

In one of my roles I remember taking on a major programme to develop a pipeline of headteachers. One of this programme’s sub projects (the ‘diversity project’) was unfunded and described to me as an ‘influencing project’. Not surprisingly it was not under the same level of scrutiny as the others and consequently not achieving as much as them. 

This is exactly my point; we won’t make the progress we need to without the high scrutiny and funding of action that goes along with other areas of organisational/ school performance. Within months I ensured it was six-figure funded and scrutinised for its’ performance and progress by the overseeing programme governance board as keenly (if not more) as any other project we were undertaking.

So, if tackling race inequality in schools is to be scrutinised as forensically as any other area of school performance, what are some of the questions governing boards need to be asking themselves?…

7 main areas to consider:

  1. Pupil achievement/ attainment – Does the governing board regularly interrogate the school’s attainment data against ethnic category data. Are there markedly different SATs/ GCSE/ A-Level outcomes for different student groups? Why is this? What are we doing about it? How is the current Covid exam grading approach playing out across our diverse students? 
  2. Racism – My own experience of governance tells me that reported racist incidents to governing boards are very low, but a TES pupil survey last spring reported a third of pupils had seen/ heard racism in their school. So, behind the monitoring of RIs, how are governors assuring themselves that their school is tackling racism and educating students about it? Do all their students feel included, protected, and supported to achieve their academic best?
  3. Exclusions and behaviour The Timpson Review rightly shone the spotlight on pupil exclusions and if you have ever sat on an exclusion panel you will know the magnitude of the decision you are being asked to make. But as a collective board, governors need to monitor exclusions (and for that matter general behaviour sanctions) by ethnic category data – what is the pattern showing? how do they have safeguards/ checks and balances in place to understand and counter any uneven outcomes?
  4. School workforce data and approaches – Are governing boards reviewing their own composition? Are they reviewing the make-up of their SLT, their teaching staff, their ancillary staff? This is not advocating a call for positive discrimination but ensuring that the governing board is asking questions about the strategic approach to recruitment and development in the school.
  5. Broad and balanced curriculum – Governing boards have a strategic role to ensure the school is delivering a broad and balanced curriculum. So, are governors confident the school is offering a balanced curriculum, relatable and accessible to all students from all backgrounds? If an academy, how are they ensuring their curriculum freedoms motivate all pupil groups in the school?
  6. Policies (e.g. uniform) – How are maintained governing boards and trusts reviewing and signing off policies? Are these policies unwittingly leading to indirect discrimination in their outcomes and unevenly associated disciplinary action because of these – e.g. Black hairstyles
  7. Destination data – Governors of secondary schools should be strategically scrutinising the destination data from their schools. Where are their students from different race and ethnic backgrounds going after they leave school? What does the data say on those progressing to further or higher education, employment, what does our NEET data tell us?

Good schools and governing boards will already do much of the above and more. They will have developed their culture and have clarity for the school’s vision and ethos on race. But if some schools are working hard to develop their culture then it’s helpful to remember that part of the governing boards’ strategic role on race is to hold the school executive to account for the educational performance of all its pupils. For success and change, culture and performance scrutiny need to go hand in hand.

Diverse Educators: A Manifesto

Hannah Wilson portrait

Written by Hannah Wilson

Founder of Diverse Educators

In August 2020, at the end of the first UK lockdown to curb the spread of Covid-19, Bennie and I sat in the sun in my garden, down the road from the school that we had started together a few years previous and we drafted a proposal for a book. We had met through Twitter and #WomenEd 5 years before that, we were both English teachers and secondary school leaders, we are both feminists who are passionate about diversity, equity and inclusion in the school system. When I secured my headship, Bennie applied to my Deputy Headteacher, and led on our values-based  curriculum with diversity and equality embedded across it. A regular topic of conversation in the time we worked together was about the books we were reading and the books we were going to write, individually and together. We knew it would happen one day! 


Many of you will know that Bennie is the reason Diverse Educators was started, she came to my office one day and shared her frustration with me at having to split herself multiple ways to go to different events each weekend to explore her intersectional identity. I checked my privilege as a heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied white woman and reflected on this. We discussed the idea of hosting one event and inviting the communities from #WomenEd, #BAMEEd, #LGBTed and #DisabilityEd to come together, at the same time, under one roof to have a joined up conversation about identity. Our inaugural Diverse Educators event was in January 2018, at which #LGBTed officially launched  and Bennie closed the grassroots event with a powerful message: ‘Don’t Tuck in Your Labels’. 


Fast forward three years and Bennie is now a Deputy Headteacher at an all-through school where she is leading on curriculum and I am working independently as a Leadership Development Consultant, Facilitator and Coach specialising in diversity, equity and inclusion. We launched the Diverse Educators website, with the help of our partners, in the middle of a global pandemic in response to the spotlight on racial inequities, and the amplification of Black Lives Matters, triggered by George Floyd’s murder. At our first virtual event in June 2020, we were joined by over thirteen thousand people. 


The world has finally woken up to the need for social justice, society can no longer ignore it and the school system can no longer not prioritise the urgent need to embed the diversity, equity and inclusion agenda strategically into our schools. Bennie has recently published her first book: A Little Guide For Teachers: Diversity in Schools and we are now inviting the #DiverseEd community to lean in and contribute to our book: Diverse Educators: A Manifesto.    


Our book will be structured, like our website, around the Equalities Act. There will be ten chapters, one for each of the nine Protected Characteristics (Age; Disability; Gender Reassignment; Pregnancy and Maternity; Marriage and Civil Partnership; Race; Religion and Belief; Sex; Sexual Orientation) with a tenth chapter exploring intersectionality.


Each chapter will have a chapter editor who will work with ten contributors offering a multiplicity of perspectives on the protected characteristic being explored in the chapter. Each submission will be 1200-1500 words long. Each contributor will interweave personal and professional narrative, framed in theory, to respond to current and historic debates. The chapter editor will write the introduction to the chapter to give context and to frame the chapter’s narratives, arguments and provocations.  


We are committed to capturing the collective voice of our community and to showcasing the diverse lived experiences of educators. We are keen for Diverse Educators: A Manifesto to be both academic and accessible. You can review the style guide here. We intend for the book to be solutions-focused with high-quality input on practice, pedagogy, people management and policy. 

We would love to hear from you if you would like to contribute. You can submit an expression of interest here. Thank you in advance for your time, energy, experience, expertise and support in contributing to our #DiverseEd book, we are looking forward to celebrating the collective commitment and amplifying your voice. 

How I recruited a diverse board and why it was important to me

Ninna Makrinov portrait

Written by Ninna Makrinov

Organisational Psychologist with over 20 years' experience in Higher Education. Currently the Chair of Governors at Water Mill Primary School.

On 30 September I Tweeted “I have been re-elected chair of governors at Water Mill Primary School. Such a pleasure to be able to serve. I’ve also recruited for all our vacancies and have the most visibly diverse board I have seen in the school this far. Thanks @Penny_Ten for your ideas.”

Here, (in a blog that was first published on the BAMEed website) I articulate why diversity on the board is important to me. And share some ideas that you might want to try when recruiting new members to yours.

A diverse board:

I am chair of governors in a small one form entry primary school in Birmingham. We are extremely proud of the diverse community we serve. It includes children from all over the world, many who arrive to school without speaking English. Because of our location near the University of Birmingham and Queen Elizabeth hospital, some of our children are only with us during their parent’s studies or work placements. When visiting the school, I see this fantastic diversity. And the children see it too! In our latest Ofsted report, the inspector quoted a child saying ‘We are all unique and great friends from different countries. We are like the united nations here’. We also have children who live permanently in the local area; they also come from diverse backgrounds.

Leadership has historically been another matter. When I joined the board we were all white; I brought some diversity, as I immigrated to the UK (for the second time) with my children and they joined the school with still little English. I did not question the lack of diversity then. It seemed the norm, educated white British people providing a service for the community. We cared, we wanted the best for the children. But we (or at least I) did not see how important it was the diversity of our community was visibly represented within the board.

I have been through a personal journey during the past 4 years that totally changed my focus. For years I have believed in multiculturalism, I have worked in international education, I have lived in three countries. Looking back, I was rather naïve in my beliefs. Maybe because in Chile, where I come from, racism is blatant I did not see it in the UK. I started attending an anti-racist pedagogies forum at work a couple of years ago, that changed my outlook. I will not delve into my process, I imagine it would bore a diverse audience to read about how I realised about my white privilege. I should have known!

Having a visibly diverse board is important to me because I realise I cannot serve a community I don’t understand. All voices need to be heard and mine is not more important than others. Our children will be able to see themselves in us, parents might trust us more. Our discussions will, I expect, be enriched by asking questions coming from different perspectives. I hope that recruiting a visibly diverse board is a starting point to diversifying our leadership, improving our policies and engaging in deep reflection. I genuinely value diversity, I have for some time; but I now know that diversity in leadership doesn’t happen by accident.

Recruiting diverse members:

Recruiting board members for school governance is a challenge in itself. I imagine I am not the only one who at some points has felt that I am begging for members. And we need to make sure we have the right skills set on the table. I know some boards achieve this by having specialised committees and big numbers. At Water Mill, we made a decision that the best governance solution for our school was to have a small board (9 members), with frequent meetings and (almost) no committees. We embarked on a skills development journey using the DfE’s competency framework. And we made a conscious commitment to recruiting diverse members. We also decided not to appoint unless we agreed of the value to the board.


As vacancies arose, we openly indicated that we were looking for diverse members. That was, I am sorry to say, not enough. The reason for this was obvious to me when I was delivering a confidence training session to university students and one of them openly discussed what she called the elephant in the room, all were women from ethnic minority backgrounds. She shared her experiences of discrimination and how she would not apply for a job in a place that was not already diverse, to avoid this. In her eyes, a recruitment pack that mentioned diversity was just saying ‘not for me’. How could we make our obviously white educated board the place for those who were not like us? I got advice on ideas to try and came up with some myself.

I still feel that our current diverse board is serendipitous. Three governors were elected by parents and I found my next door neighbour (and good friend) on Inspiring Governance. However, I hope some of the ideas I tried might help:

  1. Commit to diversity: Discuss diversity openly in your board. Create a list of the characteristics you ideally would want to have. Not all diversity if visible, but visible diversity can help demonstrate your commitment openly.
  2. Celebrate the diversity you already have: Think about how your board and/or school is already diverse. Share this and make it visible. Add diversity stories on webpages, for example. Our headteacher updated our webpage recently; I think it looks great.
  3. Ask for what you are looking for: Although I mentioned above that just adding a diversity statement was not enough, I still think this is needed. Make sure it includes your reasoning; I changed ours from ‘we welcome applications from BME backgrounds” to “We would particularly welcome nominations from parents from diverse ethnic backgrounds. We are committed to the diversity of our school; we would like our governing board membership to demonstrate this.” 
  4. Target specifically for the diversity you need: I used Inspiring Governance and Governors for Schools to support my search (if you have not tried them, do!). Inspiring Governance has a shortlisting system. In this occasion we wanted men and minority members; I did not contact any white women in my search. The vacancies were open to all, but I did not reach out to them.


I am looking forward to continuing this journey. A diverse board is not only about recruitment, but also about retention. This will require us to effectively listen to each other, value diverse opinions, ensure everyone feels like a valued member. I start this year with 4 new members, almost half of my board. We are integrating opportunities to get to know each other and training sessions during our meetings. My main focus is to build each member’s confidence in their role. I will know that I have succeeded when others are ready to step up and take the responsibility of chairing the board. I love my role, but I believe my board is better served by diversity in leadership.