Tags: Governors | Headteacher | School Governance | School Governor | School Leadership & Management

Spring 2006 heralds the arrival of the National Governors’ Association (NGA) as the National Association of School Governors (NASG) and the National Governors’ Council (NGC) have merged into a single entity.

What was the rationale for that move, what does it mean for existing members of the former organisations and where does NGA go from here?

The fundamental reason for the merger was that the trustees of both NASG and NGC believed that as one organisation they could provide more effective and efficient support and representation for their members. NGA will represent the country’s biggest volunteer force by providing one national voice and one port of call for all 340,000 governors in England. Both memberships endorsed this view with their overwhelming vote in favour of the merger.

The formation of one national body will clear up the confusion that previously existed for governors in understanding the differences between the two former organisations and deciding which one to join. Likewise for the press and partner organisations, who will now find it more straightforward to liaise with one national body representing governors. Pooling the resources of two small charities will result in economies of scale and lead to the development of more services for members. And merging will eliminate competition in chasing the same funding sources as each other.

In practical terms the two former organisations were both small, attempting to represent the same cohort and, apart from a small number of permanent staff, dependent on elected volunteers. The merger will mean that those elected representatives can more effectively spread their representation across the many forums requiring their attendance. NGA has a seat on a wide range of national working groups and will have regular meetings with government ministers, civil servants and with the education sector unions.

Fortuitously the two organisations both had their permanent headquarters in Birmingham. The NGA will be sited in the current NASG headquarters, with one set of office costs instead of two bringing further economic benefits to the merger.

NASG’s strength has always been its publications and advice documents, while NGC was established to provide a representational body for governors to air their views and so developed mechanisms for consulting governors. Over recent years these distinctions have blurred as NASG has developed its representational role and NGC has produced its own publications.

Historically, the membership structures of the two organisations differed. NASG’s membership structure was the more complex but was mainly made up of individual governors and governing bodies. In addition, some companies bought NASG membership for all their employees who served as governors. And some organisations who work with governors took out corporate NASG membership. Each membership category received the appropriate number of copies of the national magazine Governors’ News.

NGC only had one membership category – local governor associations. NGC encouraged governors to form independent associations in each local authority area in order to provide a stakeholder group with equal status with local headteacher associations, parent federations and other local groupings. Governor associations perform several important functions locally, including: – Acting as a local consultative and representative body expressing governors’ views to local authorities and to others. – Acting as a nominating body for formal governor representation on local committees such as school forums. – Engaging in regular dialogue with key members and staff of local authorities including lead politicians and directors of children’s services.

– Providing information and networks for local governors.

In addition, associations affiliated to NGC for a national voice and for regional networks. What will the membership structure of NGA look like? NGA will incorporate all the existing membership categories and will continue to deliver the existing services. So individual members, governing bodies and corporate members will continue to receive the appropriate number of copies of the magazine, delivered directly to them. They should continue to renew their membership as before and will be charged the same subscription rate as before. They should also continue to affiliate to their local governor association.

Associations will continue to receive their own services from NGA, designed to help them run their association, and so different from those received by individuals and governing bodies. They will receive electronic alerts, bulletins, briefings, reports, consultation papers and syndicated articles for their own newsletters and websites. They will also receive places at national conferences and at regional events. NGA will provide them with materials and speakers for their own local conferences. So where does the new organisation go from here? This first year will be a year of consolidation and hard work for the permanent staff and trustees as the two organisations become one. Looking to the future, as economies of scale kick in we aim to develop our membership services, both in terms of the publications produced and our representational role. Electronic communications will be developed further so that more members can access information and express their views more immediately. The regional events and networks will be further developed so that more members can be involved.

Strong regional networks will help NGA provide support and advocacy for those governors and governing bodies experiencing particular difficulties. Both NASG and NGC enjoyed positive working relationships with local authorities. NGA will build on these and work collaboratively with governor services departments on issues of mutual interest.
NGA will aim to capitalise on the merger to raise the profile of governors. Our aim is for government, the whole of the education sector and the press to hear the new ‘one strong voice’ of governors.

Jean McEntire was chief executive of the National Governors’ Council and now holds the same post at the National Governors’ Association.

This article first appeared in School Governor Update – Feb 2006

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