University School Governors Initiative which has helped 99,000 pupils wins Spirit of Manchester Award

It’s been ranked among the country’s best schemes of its type with more than 200 University staff volunteering their skills to help schools, and now The University of Manchester’s flagship School Governors Initiative has won a high-profile award.

Last night the University initiative was honoured with a Spirit of Manchester Award which closely follows a national award nomination from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in late September.

The award recognises the outstanding contribution to schools in Greater Manchester and beyond of more 220 University staff who volunteer their time to be school governors – matching their skills to schools where a gap exists. Each year these staff give 2,640 days of volunteering, impacting on 99,000 learners. This contribution is estimated to have an economic value of more than £1.4m.

As well as staff, the University encourages alumni to take part in the scheme, which has added a further 625 volunteers and spread its impact around the UK.

They provide skills including finance, law, marketing or teaching and help schools in areas where it is difficult to attract experienced professionals to the board of governors.

The University works with the charity Governors for Schools to find these opportunities and so successful is the scheme at Manchester that they rank the University as one of the top ten employers nationally for the number of volunteers recruited.

More recently the University has also been working with Inspiring Governance which also provides a matching service for schools looking for new governors.

Stephanie Lee, Head of Widening Participation and Outreach at The University of Manchester, said: “In the last seven years we’ve changed the model of how our staff engage with school governance which was largely in more affluent areas so that is is now more focused in areas of most need.

“The award and our CIPD nomination are very welcome and recognise the effort that our staff and alumni put into making the scheme a success and helping schools achieve the best possible outcomes for their young people.”

To support the School Governors Initiative, the University has put new measures in place including giving volunteers up to an extra five days leave to attend governor meetings and carry out school visits. A network within the University and an annual conference helps spread ideas, provides training opportunities and facilitates a buddy system where experienced governors can support new recruits.

Governors then take these skills to a variety of activities within schools and signpost events at the University which supplement pupils’ education and encourage them to think about higher education as a future choice.

The Initiative has had some dramatic results. In half of the schools over a third of pupils are in receipt of free school meals but more than half of the schools where University staff volunteer have improved their Ofsted judgements in recent years.

Peter Crowe, a Faculty Head of Technical Services at the University and a volunteer with the initiative said: “Being part of UMSGI gives University staff the support and confidence to carry out the role of governor effectively.

“With so many school governors here at the University, it is really easy to find internal support from within the network and this encourages me to carry out my role in school with the commitment, knowledge and passion needed to make a difference to young people’s educational opportunities.”

Also celebrating on the night was Karen Brackenridge who works at Manchester Museum who won a special award - the Dr Sylvia Sham Award for Contribution to the Sector.

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