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Research Calls for more Working Class & Ethnic Minority School Governors

In the late 1908s, the Conservative government created more than 400,000 "volunteer citizens" to join school boards of governors. This was the "largest democratic experiment in voluntary public participation", said the report by researchers from The University of Warwick, Glasgow Caledonian, Queen's Belfast and Birmingham universities and the Centre for Public Scrutiny. However the report expresses concern that , those recruited were "generally white, middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income, public/community service workers". The researchers say schools need to recruit governors from working-class and ethnic minority backgrounds to become more democratic and "cosmopolitan".

Largely middle-class volunteers had helped to improve performances as such people had the knowledge to make a "profound contribution to regenerating the schools", with their "access to privileged networks and resources". But this approach only went a certain way to improving schools if the bulk of the community was not involved. Schools across the UK had to create stronger community links to ensure continued improvement, they said. The researchers said in some local authorities this was recognised and greater efforts were under way to involve more people.

Researchers looked at boards of governors in five UK local authorities in covering England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Professor Stewart Ranson, from The University of Warwick University's Institute of Education, said: "We are at a new stage of development. Schools need to connect with their communities. Arguably, schools will not become effective learning communities until they become truly cosmopolitan learning communities, and they will only realize that vision when democratic governance is strengthened at the level of school and community as well as the local authority."

Some 67% of the governors questioned were concerned about problems recruiting more volunteers, while 45% had fears about keeping existing ones.

The report - "The participation of volunteer citizens in school governance" - will be published in volume 57 (3) of Education Review.

For further information please contact:

Professor Stewart Ranson,
University of Warwick's Institute of Education
Tel: 024 76523809 S.Ranson@warwick.ac.uk

Peter Dunn, Press and Media Relations Manager, Communications Office, University of Warwick,
Tel: 024 76 523708
or 07767 655860 email: p.j.dunn@warwick.ac.uk

PR59 PJD 11th August 2005