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A fresh take on the skills audit

Article Governance Officer Apprenticeship 1

Have you ever struggled to apply your skills at a school or trust governing board meeting?

Most of us come to governance with a good idea of what we can offer but it’s not always easy to apply those skills in the unfamiliar setting of a governing board meeting as some of the feedback we get at GovernorHub demonstrates.

23"I attended a Finance for Governors course and as a relatively new governor (although in my working life I had responsibilities for an organisation with hundreds of millions in turnover), I finally feel able to make a really useful contribution to financial matters - both in a supportive and questioning sense!"

Dr Andrew Clapham, Associate Professor of Education Policy at Nottingham Trent University, has been puzzling over this question as part of his research and with the help of governors, trustees and governance professionals has developed a solution.

We caught up with Andrew to find out more about his research-based approach to measuring our ability to successfully apply our skills.

Andrew, how did you come to focus on governors’ skills and the application of those skills in your research?

Andrew Clapham 2 modifiedThis research actually came about as I was trying to understand why we have a lack of diversity in school governance. This problem has been looked at over many years and not enough has changed so I wondered if perhaps we’re looking at it the wrong way around.

I started to look at how we recruit governors and that’s when I began working with Governors for Schools. They have a skills-based recruitment approach which results in a more diverse and younger set of volunteers than the average, so I started to look at what they do differently and also this issue of skills.

We worked together with focus groups of governors, headteachers, chairs and clerks/governance professionals to answer these questions. Governors told us that even the most expert of them frequently struggles to apply their expertise in a school board setting.

Stakeholders also fed back that the traditional skills audit can be a blunt instrument and that filling it out can be a demotivating experience. 

That’s how we eventually got to this idea that skills themselves aren’t always the answer - it’s the application of those skills in a specific context that matters. Something we’ve termed as a governor's ‘self-efficacy’.

You’ve created a new approach to measure skills and their application. It focuses on six key themes around this notion of efficacy. Can you talk us through those?

Yes we identified six key characteristics of efficacy - analysing, aspiring, committing, contributing, evaluating and leading. These have all come from the voices of governors, chairs and clerks. We found a paper related to efficacy in school leadership and took that to the focus groups and they tore it apart. They didn’t want another questionnaire, so the app we’ve created and the six domains are the outcome of that. It’s not rocket science, but that’s the thing about research. There’s a difference between saying, ‘this is pretty obvious’ and ‘this is pretty obvious based on research’.

What’s the difference between your measuring tool and a traditional skills audit in terms of the impact it could have?

What we can gather with our data is a snapshot of how governors or trustees rate their skills and efficacy at different points during their career. At GovernorHub you have lots of additional data on board activity - such as vacancies, communication levels and I know you’re due to collect data on board diversity. The aim is to host our efficacy audit on GovernorHub and then link up with your other data - that’s when it gets interesting.

Understanding who governors are and how they feel they’re applying their skills then using that knowledge to look at trends in board activity and effectiveness could give us some really fascinating information.


GovernorHub is working with Dr Andrew Clapham to create a new skills audit on its platform that is easy-to-use, easy-to-update and that also measures ‘efficacy’.

It’s hoped this data could then be used against existing data which GovernorHub holds on vacancies, board activity and diversity to identify trends and gather useful insights, whilst also pointing governors and trustees to the relevant training requirements.

GovernorHub plans to collect data on board diversity as part of its commitment to broadening the pool of talent on school governing boards (see GovernorHub's 2022 report). The aim is to work with the sector, using this anonymised data, to help school and trust governing boards become more diverse and reflective, not just of their communities, but of society as a whole.